Sunday 24 February 2019

St Luke's was Bertie Ahern's powerhouse

St Luke's Drumcomdra
St Luke's Drumcomdra
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
John Downing

John Downing

It was the hub of Bertie Ahern's power in Dublin Central from which he advanced on to the national and international stage.

And for the 11 years he served as Taoiseach it was unofficially given the role fulfilled by Britain's No 10 Downing Street or France's stately Hotel Matignon, playing host to various dignitaries and some important talks on industrial relations and the Northern peace process. But inside, St Luke's had the quaint charm of a small country hotel.

The large entrance hall doubled as a bar and reception room, its walls covered by photographs of Bertie alongside a "Who's Who" of world politicians. The bar for many years had Bertie's trademark tipple, Bass, on tap.

Behind the bar was a small kitchen area and beyond that a large meeting area with chairs stacked up ready for use at larger meetings.

A trestle table, covered in a plain table cloth, stood close to the window and the nearby backdoor opened on to a large yard cum car park. Here visitors were sometimes treated to the incongruous sight of Bertie in pinstripes, trowel in hand, tending hanging baskets.

Upstairs the apartment where he lived during a troubled time in his life remains. The bedrooms are filled with wallplates, plaques and other mementos of visits around Ireland and beyond.

The house was bought in 1988 for IR£56,000 (€71,000) and as much again was put into refurbishment.

The borrowings were guaranteed by a number of well-off backers.

The house was the source of tensions in 2012 before being remitted to Fianna Fáil HQ and now it is up for sale, expected to fetch about €600,000.

For 20 years it was "Bertie's HQ", for a time staffed by his former partner Celia Larkin, and where he stored various sums of cash which were of interest to the Mahon Tribunal.

From here he planned three back-to-back election wins.

Irish Independent

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

Also in this section