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Wednesday 13 December 2017

Fianna Fáil shoot down 'mischievous' attempt at special award for Bertie Ahern

Proposed the former Taoiseach be recognised for 'long and distinguished service to the party'

Bertie Ahern
Bertie Ahern
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has ruled out giving a distinguished service award to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

The Opposition leader described a submission recommending Mr Ahern for the award at the party’s Ard Fheis tomorrow night as “mischievous”.

Mr Ahern's old, Cumann O'Donovan Rossa in Drumcondra, wrote to Fianna Fáil HQ in recent days saying he deserved to be included in a list of nominee being recognised for their long and distinguished service to the party.

The letter, first revealed by the Irish Independent, noted that Mr Ahern’s work for Fianna Fáil dates back to the 1965 General Election and includes leading the party into government on three successive occasions.

With a certain sting in the tail it also reminds the leader that "Bertie Ahern and Micheál Martin served in cabinet together for 10 years".

However, asked for his response on the opening evening of the gathering Mr Martin categorically ruled out the idea.

“Those awards are for grassroots volunteers who down through the years have given loyalty and in a voluntary capacity to the party,” he said.

“Those of us, including Bertie who have had the honour of serving in high office, that’s our reward.

“It’s a great privilege to serve in office and as republicans that should satisfy us,” Mr Martin insisted.

The letter also suggested it was time for Mr Ahern to readmitted to the party fold.

In the wake of the Mahon Tribunal findings in March 2012, Mr Martin was in the process of moving for his old boss's expulsion when Mr Ahern felt obliged to resign from the organisation he led for 14 years.

He said his position hasn’t changed with regards to Mr Ahern’s standing in the party.

Meanwhile, the Fianna Fáil leader has said he will publicly state his position on abortion once he sees the wording of a referendum on the Eighth Amendment.

Two diverging motions on the issue are set to be debated at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis this weekend but Mr Martin said this is a positive development.

“In the party we’re very clear that it’s a matter for the individual conscience. Every member of the parliamentary party will have a freedom of conscience vote when the decision eventually comes before the Oireachtas,” he said.

“That has been our position since a number of years and will continue to be our position.”

He said “tolerance of diverging opinions” should be “the touchstone of our debate on this, not just here but across society generally”.

Asked whether he will publicly take a position on the issue, Mr Martin said: “I will of course when I see what has to be put before the people. I will make my position clear.”

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