Thursday 21 February 2019

Bertie Ahern is a winner and history will be kind to him - Alastair Campbell

Alastair Campbell with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the launch of his new book the Alastair Campbell Diaries, at the Merrion Hotel. Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins
Alastair Campbell with former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern at the launch of his new book the Alastair Campbell Diaries, at the Merrion Hotel. Dublin. Picture:Arthur Carron/Collins

NIAMH HORAN

One of the most influential figures in Britain over the past two decades, Alastair Campbell has never been a man to shy away from controversy. So it is no surprise to some that he has singled out former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern as "a true winner" in Irish politics.

The man who was once Tony Blair's chief spokesman and strategist, helping to guide the Labour Party to victory in three successive general elections, has named Mr Ahern as a victor in Irish politics and says he will stand the test of time.

"In my eyes, Bertie is a winner," he told the Sunday Independent. "My definition of a winner is a person who does big, bold, difficult things and does them well."

Mr Campbell worked closely with the former Fianna Fail leader as the British and Irish governments steered the Northern Ireland peace process to the historic Good Friday Agreement.

"In terms of how I saw him and how I viewed him at that time, absolutely definitely [he is a winner] because he is someone who was a really big part in something that I see as one of the best things that we did," added Mr Campbell.

"It pains me to see the way he is now portrayed - and I actually have dedicated a section of the book to how important the team was in the peace process, and Bertie was a key part to that." In his new book Winners And How They Succeed, Mr Campbell examines what makes successful people tick, drawing on the wisdom of those who have excelled in life including elite athletes, world leaders and heads of global business empires. He said how he and Tony Blair were blown away by Mr Ahern's dedication to the peace process.

"Tony and I were many times taken aback by Ahern's level of commitment to the Northern peace process," he said. "His level of commitment and personal sacrifice was unquestionable. Many a long night he would sit and take abuse and aggression from all sides.

"Northern Ireland was going very badly and the northern executive had to be suspended. The most poignant moment was when his late mum Julia passed away slap bang in the middle of the Good Friday Agreement.

"He headed to Dublin to sort out his personal matters and then hot-footed it back to sit around the table with us. His endless levels of energy and dedication illustrates Bertie as a true winner and time will be kind to him, I firmly believe that."

But when asked about the current Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Mr Campbell would only say: "I don't know him well enough to be able to make that judgement."

Mr Ahern features in Mr Campbell's book alongside some of the world's greatest leaders, inclduing Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King. Bill Clinton is cited as "a model on crisis management", while Campbell also priases US President Barack Obama's dynamic election campaigns.

Looking ahead to Ireland's forthcoming general election, Mr Campbell outlined what is key for a successsful campaign.

"A clear strategy which will build and inspire and motivate a team to work for you, and also I would say to be innovative in your campaigning. For that, you only need to look at Obama's campaign to see how to make the best use of data."

Other pointers in the book include never lie, but don't always tell the truth - and never think you can control social media. Richard Branson, Anna Wintour and the victorious Mercedes F1 team are all interviewed in the book.

Sunday Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Also in this section