Wednesday 25 April 2018

The spate of hate attacks on Bertie

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and (inset) the Sean O'Casey pub
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and (inset) the Sean O'Casey pub
Threats: Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern received abuse

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has revealed he was sent a rope in the post – with the clear suggestion that he should use it to hang himself.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has revealed he was sent a rope in the post – with the clear suggestion that he should use it to hang himself.

The sinister hate mail was sent to his Dublin home in what close friends of the retired politician have described as a relentless campaign of vilification and intimidation against him.

Today's revelation comes hot on the heels of an incident in a pub last Friday night that saw Mr Ahern narrowly avoiding serious injury when a man in his 40s attacked him with a crutch.

The assault at the Sean O'Casey pub in Dublin city centre is, however, just one of a number of incidents in recent weeks in which Mr Ahern has been either physically or at least verbally threatened by members of the public seeking to exact their own perverse form of justice in response to what they see as his role in the country's economic collapse.

The Sunday Independent understands that within the past month alone, Mr Ahern has twice found himself on the receiving end of abuse on his way to and from Fagan's, the pub he has frequented for decades in his native Drumcondra.

While neither incident saw any harm come to the former Taoiseach, it is understood he has taken to varying his route and time in coming and going to Fagan's as a precaution.

In the first incident, an irate driver is understood to have alighted from his car and approached the former Taoiseach with the intention of hitting him.

In the second incident, Mr Ahern found himself being subjected to ferocious verbal abuse from another driver who pulled up at the kerb outside Fagan's while Mr Ahern was standing outside the pub.

While the former politician was said this weekend to be "unfazed" by the incidents in Drumcondra or even last Friday night's serious attempt to cause him physical harm, there are already calls for the security arrangements of former Taoisigh to be reviewed.

Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Senator Ronan Mullen, a member of the Dail's Justice Committee, said that while there should be no return to the "Mercs and perks" culture of the past, those who had served in politics had a right to be safe and secure when they had left office.

"We must never allow public anger tip over into unacceptable behaviour. It was an exercise in shallow populism by Enda Kenny to remove it [security for former Taoisigh], but there must be other ways of finding fault," Senator Mullen said.

Under the system introduced by the present Government, former office holders such as Mr Ahern and his successor as Taoiseach Brian Cowen are only entitled to the use of a garda car for specific and special State events.

As part of the cost-saving measures introduced in 2011, the size of the State car fleet was reduced from 27 to six, with only President Michael D Higgins, Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, Director of Public Prosecutions Clare Loftus and Chief Justice Susan Denham retaining their official cars and garda drivers for "security reasons".

The Department of Justice last night said it did not comment on what arrangements might be in place in terms of security for current or former office holders.

"Additionally, it is an operational matter for An Garda Siochana whether or not they believe they need to reassess the level of protection in place for current or former office holders," a spokesman said.

In last Friday night's incident, Mr Ahern was lucky to have avoided serious injury after Dublin father-of-two Ray Connolly swung his crutch at the former Taoiseach's head.

Mr Connolly is understood to have been "extremely drunk".

He was kicked out of the pub by a local and subsequently arrested after he verbally abused a garda who arrived at the scene.

It is understood the arrest was not related to the assault on the former Taoiseach and is believed to have been for a minor public order offence.

Gardai declined to comment on the incident.

By Niamh Horan, Ronald Quinlan and Daniel McConnell

Sunday Independent

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