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Sunday 21 October 2018

I don't bear any grudges over Ahern: Reynolds

Fionnan Sheahan

Fionnan Sheahan

ALBERT Reynolds last night rejected suggestions his attack on Bertie Ahern over the payments controversy was linked to his loss of the Presidential nomination a decade ago.

The criticism was not the first time the ex-Taoiseach has weighed in on his successor at sensitive times, Fianna Fail sources said.

Mr Reynolds lashed Mr Ahern for accepting money from friends and businessmen in the early 1990s.

He said at the weekend that he was shocked at the revelations last September because, as Taoiseach at the time, it was something he should have been told about.

Mr Reynolds said that, as Taoiseach of the day, there was no chance he would have approved of his then Minister for Finance's decision to accept cash gifts.

But figures in Fianna Fail believe Mr Reynolds' attack is motivated by his loss of the party's Presidential election nomination to Mary McAleese in 1997.

Mr Reynolds said there was no truth to that suggestion.

"Ten years ago. Stop the lights. Not at all," he said.

Standing by his comments on Mr Ahern, Mr Reynolds said he was asked a couple of questions and he answered them.

"I had no knowledge it was coming up. It popped up and I had to deal with it," he said. And he didn't speak to Mr Ahern at the height of the controversy last year because he was "in bed with the flu when it happened".

'Albert is disappointed at what happened 10 years ago. Albert is Albert. I think he kind of stumbled into it'

Mr Reynolds was famously shafted by Mr Ahern in the 1997 Presidential candidate selection, despite the Taoiseach pledging his support and seeming to anoint his predecessor for the nomination.

Mr Ahern apparently even showed Mr Reynolds the ballot paper to prove he was voting for him, but had ensured Ms McAleese had ample support within the party for nomination.

Several FF sources said they were not surprised by Mr Reynolds' comments and that he had made similar comments before.

"Albert is disappointed at what happened 10 years ago. Albert is Albert. I think he kind of stumbled into it. It was top of the head comments.

"I wouldn't be dismissive of him but it's not viewed as significant," a party source said. "The Presidency. That would be my read of it. That's Albert. No harm done," another FF source said.

If the comments were made and had received that coverage at the height of the controversy, it could have increased the temperature on the Taoiseach, according to another source.

The latest outburst was not a surprise as he also came out following the Flood and Moriarty Tribunals as well and did make some comments during the crisis in September.

"Any time there is an issue, Albert will come out and say I told him not to do it or something. Each time he'll always emerge and get his tuppence in. That's just Albert.

"Those two go back a lot longer. Some would say it goes back to McAleese and others that it goes back to CJ Haughey. But there is no evidence of bad blood between Albert and Bertie and the Taoiseach has never been heard bad mouthing Albert," the source said.

The former Fianna Fail leader's blistering attack on the Taoiseach came as a complete surprise.

His comments on RTE's Marian Finucane Show were not pre-planned and came up in a conversation on opinion polls.

"Now I know there were circumstances there, and his marriage breaking up, but I think it's bad for politics, and it's bad for everything if there's a view out there that money can be got if you're a minister or a Taoiseach in relation to what you're doing in normal daily life," he said.

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