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Thursday 18 September 2014

Albert's resignation as Taoiseach could not be stopped, says Bertie

Published 23/08/2014 | 02:30

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BERTIE Ahern says nobody could have done anything to stop Albert Reynolds having to resign as Taoiseach, as the Fr Brendan Smyth affair spiralled out of control.

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Mr Ahern has also again insisted he didn't back a candidate in the Fianna Fail Presidential election candidate contest in 1997, which Mr Reynolds lost. In an interview with the Irish Independent, he says his backing would not have delivered a different result when Mary McAleese was selected.

Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds

"And, you know, some people said afterwards, if I had of 
went out absolutely clearly on one particular person, maybe that person would have been elected.

"My view was is that wouldn't have happened. They were all friends of mine and it was up for the party to make the decision," he said.

Mr Reynolds resigned as Taoiseach in November 1994 as the Fianna Fail-Labour Party coalition collapsed in the fallout over the extradition of paedophile priest Father Brendan Smyth.

The then Taoiseach had appointed Attorney General Harry Whelehan as president of the High Court. Mr Whelehan had been heavily criticised over 
his handling of the extradition of Fr Smyth to Northern Ireland.

Mr Ahern recounts the confusion around the controversy and says nobody truly understood what had happened.

"It was a disaster. That's how I viewed it then and since. And how we got into it and failed 
to get ourselves out of it still confuses me. Unfortunately, I think it was events that kept moving.

"We had the difficulties with I think two or maybe three Attorneys General over the period of it. But it was unfortunate. I think it was an issue that I often wonder did any of us understand. It was into a legal issue and into a complex legal issue and I think no matter what we did." he said.

"There was nothing sinister by Albert Reynolds and the rest of us on that. But we seemed to be finding ourselves in a huge difficulty convincing anyone of that. And I think nearly ending up not being convinced ourselves what we were trying to do," he added.

Mr Ahern said he did bring the bad experience of large numbers of people being involved in meetings to the Northern Ireland peace process.

"And I remember later on saying to Tony Blair when we were in the multi-party talks, I said the best negotiations are about four," he said.

'Irked'

Mr Ahern said Mr Reynolds was "irked" at not getting the Fianna Fail nomination but says they never fell out over it.

"I think he wasn't pushed about it and I did discuss it with him and he hadn't made up his mind about it. But then he wanted it and so did others," he said.

Mr Ahern says whatever candidate was selected would have won the Presidential election.

"I wanted to win. I had been director of elections for Brian Lenihan seven years earlier and lost an election which I had won and then lost and then nearly won again and then lost after Padraig Flynn interview so I didn't want to go down that road again.

"You know, to be honest, I think we would have won it no matter what candidate. I think we were in a good position in '97.

"Mary McAleese turned out to be a wonderful President. Albert Reynolds would have too, in my view, as Michael O'Kennedy would have been. And I don't think my role in it would have made a lot of difference, to be honest," he said.

Irish Independent

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