Friday 18 October 2019

Bertie Ahern lauded by Fianna Fáil after international TV interview bust-up

  • Bertie Ahern storms out of TV interview because he was asked questions about the Mahon Tribunal
  • Former Taoiseach lauded at FF annual 1916 Commemoration yesterday
  • Micheal Martin said he didn't believe a presidential campaign from the ex-Taoiseach was 'on the agenda'
Bertie Ahern pictured during the TV interview
Bertie Ahern pictured during the TV interview
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin lavished praise on his predecessor just hours after Bertie Ahern stormed out of a TV interview because he was asked questions about the Mahon Tribunal.

Applause broke out at Fianna Fáil's annual 1916 Commemoration in Arbour Hill yesterday when Mr Martin said the Good Friday Agreement would have been "impossible" without Mr Ahern.

He said the process towards ending armed conflict in Northern Ireland "reached a dramatic high-point 20 years ago this month with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement".

"The agreement built on the tireless work for peace of many people over the years, but there is no doubt that it would have been impossible without Bertie Ahern's leadership as Taoiseach.

"The scale of the problems which he and others overcame in that negotiation and in those which followed dwarf any that exist today - yet what we are seeing is a very real threat to the first agreed settlement in the history of this island."

Asked about his scripted comments by reporters afterwards, Mr Martin said: "The words I made are genuinely articulated in the context of a service he did this State in relation to achieving peace on this island."

He declined to engage in speculation that Mr Ahern might make a bid for the presidency if Michael D Higgins does not seek a second term.

Mr Martin said he didn't believe a presidential campaign from the ex-Taoiseach was "on the agenda".

"I think in terms of the forthcoming president I think it remains to be seen. The indications are the President will run again, and I think that is the key issue."

Following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal's report, Mr Ahern resigned from Fianna Fáil in 2012 in what he described as a "political" move rather than an admission that he had he lied about his finances.

The tribunal did not find the former Taoiseach to be corrupt but said much of the explanation provided by Mr Ahern as to the source of "substantial funds" was "untrue".

He has always maintained he did nothing wrong, citing "dig outs" from friends to help him cover legal bills after his divorce as an income stream.

Mr Martin did not respond directly to a question about whether the day is coming when Mr Ahern could be welcomed back into the party fold.

He said it was "an extraordinary development" to deliver peace "as somebody who grew up in the 70s and 80s listening to a daily diet of bombs and bullets and mayhem and murder".

"I thought I would never see the day that we would have peace on the island. And it is a great tribute to all of those who contributed to it at the time," he said.

It comes after Mr Ahern walked out of a television interview in Germany on foot of questions about his "mixed fortunes" in politics.

Journalist Tim Sebastian put it to Mr Ahern that he hadn't been "truthful" at the Tribunal.

Mr Ahern responded by saying he was "happy with [his] evidence" and had "dealt with the issue of the tribunal comprehensively".

The former Taoiseach has always rejected the tribunal's findings and told the interview he was "quite happy I cleared my name".

"I have definitely dealt with that issue and I'm not saying any more about that issue, I've dealt with it comprehensively," he said.

Mr Sebastian changed topic to ask whether Mr Ahern intends to run for Áras an Uachtaráin, before saying: "Let me talk about the economic crash..."

Mr Ahern began to removed his microphone, complaining: "I agreed to meet you on the Good Friday Agreement. We have done that so we are finished".

He shook hands with Mr Sebastian and walked off camera.

Irish Independent

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