'We were having bets on how long he'd last'
Published 01/01/2011 | 05:00
ONCE upon a time in Drumcondra, there was a consummate handshaker who was renowned as a 'man of the people'.
But yesterday, on the home patch of the former 'Teflon Taoiseach', there were few tears being shed over his passing from politics.
The legacy of Bertie Ahern appeared to be well and truly tarnished.
Unpalatable tribunal evidence, closely followed by the economic bombshell and -- to top it all off -- an embarrassing, ill-judged stint in a cupboard has left many of Mr Ahern's former supporters with a bitter aftertaste in their mouths.
A couple of hundred yards from the doorway of his famed constituency office St Luke's, where Bertie was believed safely ensconced behind closed blinds, council worker Adrian Wall fumed about the legacy he was leaving behind.
"Charlie Haughey was a gangster, and he knew the most devious of them all and that is why he kept him closest to his side," he told the Irish Independent.
"You can always tell when they upgrade their cars that they are on the move," he said.
"We were having bets in the local pub how long he'd be in."
He highlighted the money taxpayers were continuing to hand over to support Bertie, with security, a car and driver, along with a lavish pension pot.
Mr Wall said that in his house alone, as he had three children who were teachers, was down thousands of euro each month.
There have been reports Bertie has faced a barrage of verbal abuse on the streets of his home turf; his Mercedes once parked out on the footpath in front of St Luke's is now generally at the rear of the premises.
Walking along the street opposite the former Taoiseach's favourite watering hole, Fagan's pub, Pat Mullarkey said everybody in the area had loved him as he did so much and was known as a hard worker.
But in a sign of how times have dramatically changed, the Drumcondra native said she was delighted Mr Ahern was now stepping down.
"I do think he knew exactly what was going on and did nothing about it, so it is no loss. I think he has a hell of a nerve to still be there. I'm delighted he is retiring," she said.
"Nobody would want him as President, I think he would have a hell of a nerve but then he has a hell of a nerve."
Outside a busy Tesco's shop, Bri Murray, a pensioner, said she felt Mr Ahern was not a "sincere person".
"I'm glad he's going. I just don't know who is going to fill his shoes, just as long as it is somebody with a bit more integrity than he had," she said.
"I just felt he let the side down quite a bit."
Ms Murray said people really were angry and hoped that the younger breed of politicians would learn from the mistakes of the past.
"He (Bertie) should cover his head and go somewhere quiet," she said. "How dare he even think of it (running for President), lovely ladies that filled those shoes."
Ultan Kelly, who also lives in the area, said he would rather see Senator David Norris running for President.
"I think he would do a much better job," he said.
Financial adviser Stephen Hamilton, a resident in the heart of Drumcondra, said the former Taoiseach had just "made a mess of it".
"All the stupid things he did, the 'News of the World' (advertisement) and stuff like that, I think are really winding people up," he said.
"Would people vote for him to be President? I doubt it."
Resident Seamus O Aodha added: "I never had a problem with the man, he seemed to have done his best, probably could have done better. History will record him as a trier anyway. He was a man of the people. The neighbours all loved him around here, that was why they kept voting for him every time. He worked very hard for the area."
He revealed his money was squarely on Barnardos chief Fergus Finlay for the presidency. We've yet to find out who Bertie has his money on.