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Adventures of a high-flying former Taoiseach

He may not be welcome to talk for free in Tipperary, but former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern earned a small fortune last year on speaking engagements around the world.

Mr Ahern, still a sitting TD, earned at least €146,000 from five speaking engagements arranged by the Washington Speakers Bureau, the agency that also arranges speaking engagements for Tony Blair, George W Bush and Sarah Palin. But he also went on 11 other trips, which may also have commanded a fee and travel expenses.

His annual pay as a TD is €92,672.

Mr Ahern is a level-6 speaker with the Washington Speakers Bureau, which means he commands a minimum fee of $40,000 ( €29,100) plus first-class travel expenses for two.

Last year, he travelled twice to the United States, as well as Honduras, Nigeria and Spain.

In his declaration to the Oireachtas, Mr Ahern discloses that he was afforded travel facilities for 16 trips abroad during 2009, compared to nine the previous year. The locations included New York, where he spoke to real-estate investors, and Tegucigalpa in Honduras where dignitaries spent €110 to listen to the former Taoiseach's speech, 'The Celtic Tiger: The Irish Model for Development'.

Mr Ahern participated in four events in Ireland, Britain and the US, organised by Co-operation Ireland.

He has also been to Dubai and Madrid.

More recently, in March of this year he spoke at the prestigious Oxford Union. In his address he blamed the impact of the global recesssion for Ireland's current difficulties.

"Ireland is hurting deeply, as many other countries are, as a result of the credit crunch, the worst global downturn since the 1930s and the crisis in the banking sector," he said.

"However, because of the strong growth and wise policy choices we made over much of the last decade, we still have much to build upon and I am confident that Ireland can return to economic growth next year," he said.

Jerome Reilly

Sunday Independent