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Ahern won't run for Presidency

Former Taoiseach realises chances of winning job have been scuppered by his unpopularity

Bertie Ahern has virtually ruled out any possibility of running for the Presidency.

Sources close to the former Taoiseach say that he considered making that announcement last week when he was declaring the end of his political career, but in the end decided against doing so.

Mr Ahern is understood to have decided some time ago that he would have very little chance of getting the Fianna Fail nomination to contest the election to succeed President McAleese in 2012. And even if he did, he would not win.

When he issued a statement last Thursday night from his Drumcondra headquarters that he would not contest the next General Election, Mr Ahern was asked about the Presidency, but declined to comprehensively rule it out, saying instead: "You never say never."

But the Sunday Independent has learned that Mr Ahern recognised some time ago that his current unpopularity, arising from the collapse of the boom that he oversaw as Taoiseach, has made it impossible for him to succeed in winning the race.

Some of his closest advisers are understood to have strongly urged him to come clean on the Presidency issue last week, but Mr Ahern was of the view that if he was to do so, this would overshadow his announcement about the close of his Dail career.

One source told the Sunday Independent: "Realistically, he knows it is not going to happen. He knows it 99.9 per cent.

"But you can never tell with Bertie. He may be like a guy waiting for the bottom of the housing market -- he's looking for the bottom of his popularity. Maybe he thinks that things could possibly turn around over the next 12 months or so. Then again, he could find that for the immediate future, it's bottomless."

Asked about his enforced retirement as Taoiseach, Mr Ahern said: "I would have liked to have stayed on in 2008 to finish out (as Taoiseach). I always wanted to go at the end of the decade. I always said I would finish when I was 60. I have stuck to that commitment, which I set in 2002."

And in a broadside to his critics he said: " I do believe the experience I have gained during a long time as Taoiseach would have been useful in the downturn. But I did not see the downturn coming. I did not see the collapse of Lehmans coming.

"I didn't see the difficulties of the banks here. I wish that someone would have advised me of it, but no economist did. There's a lot of them now who knew everything about everything, but unfortunately, none of them ever told me."

Mr Ahern said he felt sympathy for young people who had to emigrate.

He said he wished there were jobs for them here, adding pointedly, "as there was when I was Taoiseach, and I hope we can get back to a position of doing that again. But a lot of our good industries are strong -- IT, pharmaceutical, chemicals and financial services -- with the exception of our main banks".

And in a parting shot, he seems to suggest that his legendary negotiating skills might have been effective against the men from the IMF, the EU and the ECB who came here to decide our future.

"I always enjoyed negotiating. I'm still involved in conflict resolution both in the North and outside the country.

"But listen, it's no good me saying I could have done better or worse when I don't have all the facts. I'm sure people did their best, but I would have loved to have been doing the negotiating," he

Sunday Independent