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Thursday 22 March 2018

FG TD hits back at Ahern for calling Garret 'useless'

Fionnan Sheahan Political Editor

A FINE Gael TD last night hit back at Bertie Ahern for calling Garret FitzGerald "useless", pointing to the late former Taoiseach's role in the North.

Fine Gael TD Brendan Griffin said Dr Fitzgerald was pivotal in the Anglo-Irish Agreement and Mr Ahern should "say nothing" if he had nothing positive to say.

"His record in Northern Ireland, with the Anglo-Irish Agreement in 1985, was a major achievement," he said.

Mr Griffin also said Dr FitzGerald played a role in the Sunningdale Agreement under Liam Cosgrave's government of 1973 to 1977.

"From a historic perspective, Garret FitzGerald, as an Irishman, laid a path that we can build on. His motivations were always without question," he said.

Mr Ahern criticised his successor Brian Cowen and Dr FitzGerald in an academic research interview.

The former Fianna Fail leader said Dr FitzGerald wouldn't have been able to deal with those involved in the peace process negotiations.

Mr Ahern said he and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were the right leaders to negotiate with unionists and republicans.

"Imagine if it had been FitzGerald and Thatcher at the table. It just wouldn't have worked.


"He would have just been horrified by all these mad, bad people. He could never hack them anyway; he tried, God love him, but he was useless," he said in the interview.

Mr Griffin said he was "surprised and disappointed" by Mr Ahern's comments.

"Considering his own legacy, I think that Bertie, after everything that's happened, would be doing a greater service if he kept his head down and disappeared," he said.

The Kerry South TD was speaking after the inaugural Garret FitzGerald Summer School in Killarney at the weekend. Mr Griffin said Dr FitzGerald's son, Mark FitzGerald, referred to the Anglo-Irish Agreement and his father's ability to charm Mrs Thatcher at the event.

"She seemed to trust Garret FitzGerald," the TD said.

Mr Griffin said it would be ridiculous to claim everything Dr FitzGerald did in his political life was perfect. But he said his record on the Northern Ireland peace process "spoke volumes".

Mr Ahern was interviewed on the topic of leadership by businessman Anthony Byrne for his master's dissertation.

"He was open enough to share some insight, views and values about his time in politics and at times was quite frank," he said on his website.

Although he says he is a good friend, Mr Ahern was quite critical of Mr Cowen's leadership style and his failure to keep colleagues informed of what was happening.

He singled out Noel Dempsey and Dermot Ahern not being told the then government was in negotiations for a bailout.

"You had Dempsey and Ahern on the TV saying one thing, but the decision had already been made. He didn't communicate it to the team. That's a thing you have to be careful of," he said.

Irish Independent

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