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Bertie's greatest strength will always be the women he loves

LOYALTY. It's the trait that links all of the women in Bertie Ahern's life -- his ex-wife Miriam, his two grown-up daughters Georgina and Cecilia, his ex-girlfriend Celia Larkin.

The strong, independent-minded women may not have seen eye to eye over the years as Bertie's status changed and he morphed from family man to separated father and into one half of a glamorous political coupling.

Whatever his machinations and the hurtful fallout as Bertie and his new lover graced the social pages in the 90s, his 'first family' stood solidly beside him. But the question is: was Bertie hiding behind them?

Bertie argued to the Mahon Tribunal that his financial woes were triggered by his familial obligations to pay off his ex-wife and maintain their two children.

But the 'dig-outs' get far more complicated and controversial when the subject of Beresford, around the corner from his childhood home in Drumcondra, comes into the frame.

Passionately

Bertie passionately denied suggestions that $45,000 was used to refurbish the property and Celia Larkin -- whose girlfriend duties extended to banking wads of cash for him -- displayed a keen, First Girlfriend's eye for up-market interior design, gentrifying the house with aplomb.

Just who owned the house, and when, perplexed the tribunal but one thing was for certain: Celia, who would later develop a career extending from TV presenter to colour analyst to beauty salon entrepreneur, had a great eye for interior design.

No ordinary curtains for the former political secretary from Finglas who met Bertie working in Leinster House. The house at Beresford boasted only the best of interior touches.

Bertie walked a particularly delicate line at the red brick 'des res' where he entertained his teenage daughters at weekends. The girls think the world of their dad and in 1992, aged 10 and 13, they showed considerable backbone when they worked the traditional Budget Day photocall on the Dail plinth, when the Minister for Finance presents his family, and briefcase, to the waiting press.

By now, it was public knowledge that Bertie and his banker wife Miriam (nee Kelly) had split, so in the absence of the nuclear family, the girls became their dad's greatest PR accessory and still are, 20 years later where they have acquired celebrity status in their own right -- Georgina as a Westlife wife and mother of twins, her little sister Cecilia making millions as a top-selling chick lit author.

The Ahern girls didn't lick the loyalty trait off a stone.

Bertie's ex-wife was resolutely private in the early days of the couple's break up.

When reporters routinely rang up the family home in Muldowney Court in Malahide looking for a comment from 'anorak man', Miriam would offer to take a number and minutes later, Bertie would ring back.

Intensely private, Miriam would not have welcomed the spotlight which fell on her as Bertie and the First Girlfriend went high profile on the diplomatic circuit. However, Miriam has learned to turn the public's fascination with her to a good purpose, heading up the CARI charity ball.

Married

They would have been married 40 years in 2015 and recently Miriam, who has a long-term partner in Skerries restaurateur Terry McCoy, confirmed: "Things are good now between Bertie and myself. It's all come around.

"It's lovely to see him down on the floor playing with his grandkids, as he never had the time before to do it with his own children."

Bertie may have ruled out divorce for them, but Miriam has learned to love being the ex-Mrs Ahern and her approach has been practical.

They may not be able to live under the same roof, but they can live under the same sky.

Today, Celia Larkin may be not be feeling the same goodwill. A pragmatist to the core, she wasn't immune to the negative vibes emanating from the conservative forces in Fianna Fail to their romance. Her life and business failures are being dragged up as her 'bag lady' evidence to the tribunal earns her yet more unwanted column inches. The absence of an invitation to Nicky and Georgina's wedding in France told Celia what Bertie probably couldn't voice: their romance had no future.

While Bertie would not commit to Celia, he did find romance again in the arms of Anna, widow of one of his oldest friends, Brian Bogle.

Bertie Ahern may not be a man for committing long-term to women, but his life is populated by women who can.

Irish Independent