Wednesday 7 December 2016

'Warning shot' from Martin kills off Ahern's FF hopes

Niall O'Connor and Conor Feehan

Published 02/12/2016 | 02:30

Mr Ahern confirmed that rejoining his former cumann was under consideration. Photo: Frank McGrath
Mr Ahern confirmed that rejoining his former cumann was under consideration. Photo: Frank McGrath

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is expected to hold back on plans to rejoin Fianna Fáil after party leader Micheál Martin expressed his opposition to such a move.

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Mr Martin said yesterday that he did not see any prospect of Mr Ahern rejoining in a move that sources said was being perceived as a "warning shot" to members of the Dublin Central branch.

Micheál Martin: 'I don’t think it’s a prospect. The position I articulated four years ago still stands.' Photo: Gerry Mooney
Micheál Martin: 'I don’t think it’s a prospect. The position I articulated four years ago still stands.' Photo: Gerry Mooney

Party headquarters was taken aback on Tuesday night after it emerged that a motion calling for Mr Ahern to be invited back into the party fold was passed without a vote being taken.

Speaking to the Irish Independent yesterday, Mr Ahern confirmed that rejoining his former cumann was under consideration.

"What they're talking about is rejoining the local cumann and helping out, that's all," the former Taoiseach said.

"Yesterday people were stopping me and saying 'delighted you're coming back as a TD'. I've no intention of coming back as a TD.

"All the local organisation said was they're inviting me back to join the local cumann to help out.

"I've worked with them, and canvassed with them for 40 years. They are good people and what they are trying to do - they haven't got a seat, the neighbouring constituency in Dublin North West haven't got a seat - is revamp the organisation, build it up and win back the seats in the next general election, whenever that is, next year, the year after, the year after."

But a short time after making the remarks, Mr Martin went on Tipp FM, during which he all but ruled out Mr Ahern making a return.

While stopping short of saying he would block such a move, Mr Martin said Mr Ahern had effectively retired from politics.

He said the party had been rebuilding in Dublin and had moved on generally. "I don't anticipate Bertie Ahern coming back into the party," Mr Martin added. "I don't see any prospect of that."

Mr Martin said "nothing has changed since four years ago" when he as party leader was preparing to expel Mr Ahern following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal's report. Mr Ahern resigned before this happened.

Asked would he actively seek to block Mr Ahern's attempts to rejoin, Mr Martin replied: "I don't think it's a prospect. The position I articulated four years ago still stands."

Last night, Dublin Central sources said they perceived Mr Martin's remarks as a "warning shot".

One senior source in the constituency said Mr Ahern was highly unlikely to submit an application following Mr Martin's comments.

Earlier, Mr Ahern was asked about any ambitions he had to run for president.

He suggested that the next race for the Áras would be between President Michael D Higgins and broadcaster Miriam O'Callaghan.

"She [Miriam] is running against Michael D," Mr Ahern said. "Michael D is my friend, I've great time for the President. He's a good man."

Asked is the presidency was an office he would be interested in, Mr Ahern (65) said President Higgins had "another two years, and if he stays I'd be ancient".

"I hope I'm still alive. Of course, Donald Trump is five years older than me," he added.

Mr Ahern admitted that he felt huge loyalty to Fianna Fáil and supported Mr Martin.

"I support the leader, I support the party, of course I do. My father joined the party 90 years ago. My brother Maurice is in it, Noel is in it, Eileen is in it."

Meanwhile, cumann chairman Brian Mohan has formally sent a letter to Mr Ahern informing him of the motion tabled at the meeting in the Skylon Hotel.

Irish Independent

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