Liam Fay: Ahern failed to make the distinction between showbiz and statesmanship
Russell Brand and Bertie Ahern make strange bedfellows, but both of these world-class comedians have more in common than is immediately apparent. Alastair Campbell has suggested that the work of Ahern and other key players in the Northern Ireland peace talks provides an eloquent rebuttal of the cynicism about politicians recently expressed by Brand in a much-viewed BBC interview. Ironically, however, Campbell merely confirms the public's worst suspicion about the supremacy of political spin.
Tony Blair's former spokesman continues to hold Ahern in high esteem, a luxury unaffordable to those who actually live with his economic legacy. Blair and Ahern were the primary driving forces behind the Belfast Agreement, and Campbell is right to highlight this fact. Nevertheless, he is wrong to suggest that Irish people have forgotten Ahern's role as a peacemaker. We haven't; but we haven't forgotten anything else either.
Ahern's facility for doublespeak, sophistry and Brandian flourishes of folderol – so-called constructive ambiguity – was clearly an aid to the Northern negotiations. But this was a happy accident. Unfortunately for the Republic's citizenry, Ahern's propensity for word games did not end when he left Belfast. When it came to financial affairs – his own and the nation's – the ambiguity eventually became very destructive indeed.