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Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern rejoins Fianna Fáil more than 10 years after quitting the party


File photo: Bertie Ahern

File photo: Bertie Ahern

File photo: Bertie Ahern

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has rejoined Fianna Fáil, more than ten years after he quit the party over the findings of the Mahon Tribunal.

A Fianna Fáil spokesperson confirmed to the Irish Independent: “We received a membership application and it was accepted by the Party.”

It’s understood that Mr Ahern has rejoined the party organisation in Dublin Central as an ordinary member for the annual €20 a year fee.

In line with party rules, he has no voting rights in the first year of his membership.

The application was processed in recent weeks.

A spokesperson for Mr Ahern said he has done a number of events in the last year with many different groups in relation to the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement,  and rejoined Fianna Fáil at the end of last year.

It comes as Mr Ahern is to address Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan’s constituency organisation as part of an event marking the landmark anniversary of the agreement.

Tánaiste Micheál Martin welcomed Mr Ahern’s return to the party, more than a decade after he effectively forced him to resign.

Speaking to reporters in Washington, Mr Martin said: ‘As I said earlier, above and beyond everything he has made an outstanding contribution to peace in Northern Ireland and he continues to work on that agenda.…I believe in the context of that achievement, I welcome his membership.’

There had been heightened speculation that Mr Ahern would return to the party he quit 11 years ago over the findings of the Mahon Tribunal.

Mr Ahern has also been linked with a run for the presidency in 2025 - a possibility not ruled out by Tánaiste Micheál Martin.

Mr Martin opened the door to Mr Ahern’s return to Fianna Fáil for the first time last September, saying he had been consulting with his predecessor on Northern Ireland and Brexit issues.

The then Taoiseach denied that Mr Ahern was now an adviser to him, but said he had been “valuable” in terms of engagement with communities in the North.

The Fianna Fáil leader proposed expelling Mr Ahern from Fianna Fáíl in March 2012 after the Mahon Tribunal into planning matters found the former Taoiseach failed to truthfully account for the source of bank account lodgements.

Mr Ahern, who resigned his membership of the party after Mr Martin proposed expelling him, has disputed the tribunal’s findings, saying he has “never accepted a bribe or a corrupt payment”.

Mr Martin said at the time that his predecessor had “betrayed the trust” of the country and the party.

Meanwhile, Mr O’Callaghan, who has made no secret of his ambition to lead Fianna Fáil, criticised the party for not being good at commemorating its own achievements in government ahead of the event on Thursday, which has been organised by party members in Dublin Bay South.

He said it was important to mark the party’s achievements.

“One of the things we are not good at in Fianna Fáil is commemorating our achievements, we should be celebrating significant achievements that Fianna Fáil has been responsible for or played a part in," he said.

“We should be doing it much more, if we don't commemorate things other people try to appropriate our achievements.”

He said as many as 250 people are expected to attend the event at a hotel in Ballsbridge in Dublin where Mr Ahern will be interviewed by Patricia MacBride, a columnist with the Irish News.

It is not the first time Mr Ahern has addressed Fianna Fáil meetings with the three-term Taoiseach, a frequent speaker and commentator on Brexit and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, Mr Ahern is being welcomed back to the party with open arms with one minister claiming “it was always going to happen”.

Fianna Fáil ministers, TDs and Senators who spoke to the Irish Independent were all happy with his return into the party.

Minister of State at the Department of Further and Higher Education Niall Collins was among those who welcomed Mr Ahern’s return.

“I’m not surprised and I welcome it. It was always going to happen,” he said.

This sentiment was echoed by other Fianna Fáil politicians, with one minister saying it is “fantastic” he has returned.

Other politicians pointed to Mr Ahern’s role in the Good Friday Agreement almost 25 years ago.

Several TDs noted how Mr Ahern left his mother’s funeral early, to go and continue negotiations on the agreement.

Meanwhile, the rejoining by Mr Ahern was mentioned at the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting this evening by chairman Brendan Smith, who praised Mr Ahern’s work on Northern Ireland.

Clare TD Cathal Crowe also spoke out to colleagues to welcome the move, noting the huge achievements of Mr Ahern in delivering the Good Friday Agreement and his continuing work since. Praise also came from Minister of State Seán Fleming of Laois-Offaly.

Also welcoming Mr Ahern’s return at the meeting were TD Padraig O'Sullivan and senators Mark Daly, Erin McGreehan, and Eugene Murphy.

His work as Taoiseach in building peace, as Labour Minister – on social partnership and industrial relations - and as party leader were “widely praised with many commenting that his work is still very much appreciated by the public the length and breadth of the country”, one source said.

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