Friday 21 June 2019

Ahern out in the cold as FF cuts him loose

> Ex-leader seen as major liability
> Fury over his public comments
> Relationship with Celia 'fraught'

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

THE knives are out in Fianna Fail for ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as the party prepares to cut off all ties with its former leader. Fianna Fail grassroots members are furious with his increasingly erratic behaviour.

Former colleagues are angered at the way Mr Ahern remains a magnet for public resentment. Ahead of the Planning Tribunal report -- in which his personal finances will prominently feature -- Mr Ahern is becoming ever more isolated.

Mr Ahern turns 60 on September 12, with reports that he will hold a birthday celebration in Croke Park three days prior to this.

The invitations have reputedly been sent out by his daughters Cecilia and Georgina in the form of match tickets.

However, his relationship with his former partner Celia Larkin is understood to be fraught and his infamous 'Drumcondra Mafia' are also said to be gradually drifting away from their former boss.

In a remarkable reversal of fortunes, the leader who brought the party to three general-election successes is now viewed almost as a pariah.

Already, some party members are telling TDs and senators that they want to see him distanced from Fianna Fail.

A senior party figure said: "Every public utterance he makes digs it deeper every time. From the day he left the Dail, it's been one thing after another. The party members are very pissed off. It's coming up right across the country."

In the past week alone, Mr Ahern has been in the spotlight for a series of negative reasons:

> His high expenses of €270,000 since resigning as Taoiseach

> Claiming the party's unpopularity damaged his presidential chances

> Describing the focus on tribunal evidence about his personal finances as "trash"

> Attacking party grassroots members

> Saying he was struggling with his €500,000 legal fees.

Party figures also point to a litany of other statements, including his constant denial of any role in the economic downturn and his only expression of regret being about the failure to build the 'Bertie Bowl'.

"The interviews are a train crash. You know, at a time when people are out of work and he's bringing up the 'Bertie Bowl'," a former cabinet colleague said.

Fianna Fail members feel his profile is drawing the ire of the voters and serves as a constant reminder of the role of his government in the economic crisis.

"The cumann members are furious," a party senator said.

The attitude in the party towards Mr Ahern is reflected in Micheal Martin's thinly disguised attacks on his predecessor. Fianna Fail is awaiting the publication of the Mahon Tribunal respond and the party has pledged to respond swiftly.

Mr Martin openly attacked his former party boss for the second day in a row yesterday.

His willingness to go after Mr Ahern is viewed as popular within the party and a sign the party leader knows there is little sympathy for him.


The party leader had already had a go at Mr Ahern for branding some members of the local party organisation in Dublin Central as "useless".

The party leader followed up yesterday saying Mr Ahern's expenses were "excessive" and called on the former Taoiseach to scale back his spending of taxpayers' money.

"Former Taoisigh of all colours and from all political creeds have enjoyed some support in terms of the aftermath of being Taoiseach.

"I think that is very excessive. I think there is no need for the nature, the scale of supports that he is currently getting," he said on the 'Micheal Reid Show' on LMFM Radio.

Irish Independent

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