Tuesday 22 October 2019

Ahern takes swipe at Martin over renewal of deal to prop up Fine Gael for another year

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: INM
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern. Photo: INM
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has taken a swipe at Micheál Martin by questioning whether Brexit was the Fianna Fáil leader's only motivation for agreeing to prop up the Fine Gael minority Government for another year.

Mr Ahern also questioned what Fianna Fáil had got out of the deal, saying the renewal had been "given on the basis of no real agreement on anything".

Fianna Fáil last week agreed to extend the existing Confidence and Supply Agreement with Fine Gael until early 2020.

Mr Martin said he took the decision in the national interest, given the impending threat of Brexit.

However, Mr Ahern suggested that this may not have been his successor's only motivation for extending the deal. He argued that an election would probably return another Dáil stalemate.

"An election over the next few months would probably give something of the same seats that we have," said Mr Ahern.

"Micheál Martin probably looked at that and said, 'Well, what's the point?'" Mr Ahern added: "I don't really think it's to do with Brexit."

Speaking on RTÉ Radio, he said he had supported Mr Martin's decision to facilitate the Fine Gael-led Government after the 2016 election. This avoided the possibility of two or three elections in quick succession.

But on the renewal, Mr Ahern claimed that while he was not privy to the "inside story", it looked as if the extension had been "given on the basis of no real agreement on anything".

He continued: "It's just 'give another year's support to the Budget next year'. That's probably sensible enough."

After the extension had been announced last week, Fianna Fáil said it had obtained assurances that legislation which it supports would be prioritised.

One example is its demand that new laws to limit hikes to variable mortgage rates be introduced in return for Fianna Fáil propping up Leo Varadkar's Government.

Mr Martin has also denied that his party got a raw deal for its support of the Government. He insisted: "The bottom line is we're facing into a huge threat in the form of Brexit."

Fianna Fáil last night declined to comment on Mr Ahern's remarks.

Mr Ahern is no longer a member of the party. He resigned from it in 2012 in the wake of the findings of the Mahon Tribunal, which had examined his finances.

At the time, Mr Martin had been in the process of moving for his former boss's expulsion from the party.

Mr Ahern also warned that Ireland must stand firm on measures to avoid a post-Brexit hard Border with the North.

He said that Brexiteers in the UK had "copped on late" that they could be stuck with the so-called backstop to avoid a Border with Northern Ireland "for a long-time".

Mr Ahern maintained: "We can't give an inch on it," adding: "We do not want a return to the borders of the past."

Irish Independent

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