Friday 24 January 2020

How Fianna Fail's young turks react to the old guard

Former leader shows face at party's Ard Fheis, prompting Calleary to head off in the opposite direction

STEERING HIMSELF, NOT THE COUNTRY: Bertie Ahern arrives at the RDS
STEERING HIMSELF, NOT THE COUNTRY: Bertie Ahern arrives at the RDS
STEERING HIMSELF, NOT THE COUNTRY: Bertie Ahern arrives at the RDS
hundreds queue for the Work Abroad Expo which was also at the RDS

RONALD QUINLAN

THERE was a time when Bertie Ahern would have been driven through Ballsbridge in the bus lane, with a team of gardai for protection.



Yesterday, however, it was a different story for the former Taoiseach as he sat behind the wheel of his own 2008 Ford Mondeo on Pembroke Road, waiting along with the rest of the hoi polloi for the lights to turn green.

The traffic was bumper to bumper all the way to the RDS and the Fianna Fail Ard Fheis, with party diehards coming from across the country to hear Mr Ahern's cabinet colleague of 14 years and his successor as party leader, Micheal Martin, call for renewal.

Gone from the highest political office for nearly four years now, not even the empty bus lane could save Mr Ahern as he endured the grim wait and the long line of brake lights stretching into the distance.

Notwithstanding Mr Martin's vow the previous night to take "swift and comprehensive action" against anyone found by the Mahon Tribunal to have abused their position within Fianna Fail or in elected office, Mr Ahern was determined to show his face at the RDS yesterday -- regardless of any of the brickbats that might be thrown his way, whether they came from ordinary delegates or from those whom he personally promoted to ministerial office.

Asked by the Sunday Independent if he had anything to say in response to Mr Martin's comments as he walked the short distance from his car to the conference hall, Mr Ahern smiled and said simply: "I'm not going to get into that. I'm here as a member of the party today."

Inside the RDS, the reception for the former Taoiseach, unsurprisingly, blew hot and cold, with those who remembered and wanted to hold on to the good times they had enjoyed during the boom flocking forward to have their photo taken with him.

However, there were plenty of others who maintained a wide berth, choosing instead to look on and mutter under their breath from afar.

Even Fianna Fail's 'best and brightest' didn't want to know the man who led them into government and kept them there for 14 years.

Asked at one point by a reporter if he would go over and "say hello to Bertie", a clearly taken-aback Dara Calleary bluntly exclaimed "f**k", turned on his well-heeled shoe and headed in the opposite direction.

But however short or unreliable the collective memory of the party's latest grandees or its members may be, there were plenty of others in Ballsbridge yesterday who won't easily forget what the policies pursued by Fianna Fail and aped by the rest of Ireland's political establishment has done to them.

But they weren't to be found queuing up in the RDS to vote on motions to renew Mr Martin's political machine. Rather, they were to be found lining up in their hundreds outside the Simmonscourt Pavilion for the Work Abroad Expo.

They came from all walks of Irish life and were all walking in one direction in the hope of a better life somewhere else -- anywhere but here.

Sunday Independent

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