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Lise Hand: Micheal takes the fall and does Walk of Shame after being betrayed by Bertie

There is a ceremony known to all women in possession of a hearty appetite for conviviality and spontaneity. It's called the Walk of Shame.

This particular perambulation takes place the morning after the night before, when one has to appear in public sporting what is obviously last night's disco-clothes, a tangled mane of bed-hair and the smudged remnants of last night's make-up, and then make one's way home under the gaze of strangers who know precisely what sort of sinful shenanigans one has been up to.

Yesterday, it was Micheal Martin's turn to embark on the Walk of Shame. He's an unlikely character for this sort of activity, but then sometimes even nice girls end up in compromising situations.

Micheal was, of course, immaculately dressed as he walked down the long corridor in the Alexander Hotel and into a room where a large posse of media awaited him.

But it was a Walk of Shame nonetheless. He was doing it on behalf of Fianna Fail.

It was the morning after Mahon, and all the sinful shenanigans of a cabal of crooked politicians had been laid bare over a damning 3,270 pages of findings. Everyone now knows for sure what they had all been up to for years.

And then there was Bertie. The tribunal concluded that he wasn't crooked and they had found no conclusive evidence that he had taken any corrupt payments. But he had told untruth after untruth after untruth.

It was yet another body-blow to the tattered remnants of the Soldiers of Destiny. While Fine Gael politicians feature in the report, it's Fianna Fail that's the guilty party by a distance.

And now former thrice-elected Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is the most vilified, the most deluded, the most isolated of them all.

But even as he faces expulsion from his beloved party, Bertie has angrily rejected the tribunal's findings. He has no truck with penitence. He has done nothing wrong. So it fell to Micheal to embark on the Walk of Shame, to scatter apologies and walk and walk until he has put many miles between Fianna Fail and the long desolate shadow of their fallen hero.

Standing alone behind a podium, Micheal explained the reasons behind the swift judgment passed on their former party leader.

The tribunal findings relating to Bertie were "extremely serious", he said. "The motion of expulsion which will be voted on next Friday is the only route available to us to assert the fact that he fell short of the standard of personal behaviour which all holders of public office should uphold."

Nor did he agree with Noel Ahern's assertion that he had rushed into a precipitate "macho" decision to expel Bertie. "There's nothing macho about this," he insisted. "It's a very dark day for the party when you have to recommend the expulsion of a former leader."

Indeed, it can't be easy for Micheal to bring the axe swishing down on his old boss's neck. After all, he and The Bert go back a long way -- right back to 1995 when the newly elected party leader gave the fresh-faced Corkman his start in frontbench life, first in opposition and then in Cabinet in 1997 where he remained until the election massacre just over a year ago.

And this is precisely why Micheal has an arduous, if not impossible task ahead of him in breaking free of Bertie. He was part of Team Ahern.

He loyally defended his leader like a dutiful soldier when the Mahon bullets really began to fly in 2007 and 2008.

"I believed what Bertie Ahern said at that time to the tribunal and I was wrong," he said. "I was disappointed and I am disappointed in terms of the outcome of the tribunal. At the time I felt he was giving an account, I didn't understand it fully . . . I hadn't gone through the entirety of the report. You're saying I should know what it took the tribunal 15 years to unravel," he insisted.

But still the shadow clung. One of the most startling statements in the Mahon report was the assertion that at the time the tribunal was focusing in on Bertie, a number of Fianna Fail ministers launched a series of "extraordinary and unprecedented" attacks on the tribunal in an effort to "erode its independence and collapse it".

"At no stage did I ever engage in that," he said vehemently. "I ask anyone to produce any comment that I in any shape or form ever attempted to undermine the integrity of the members of the tribunal or indeed the legality of the tribunal," he declared. He also rejected the notion that ministers had taken part in a concerted campaign to go after the tribunal.

It's a lonely walk that Micheal is on in these dark times. There's little fun and few comrades on the road with him, only hard questions as he does the hard yards.

He is head of a party that is demoralised and in disgrace. And now the breadth of Bertie's betrayal has left his troops feeling bitter and bereaved.

But Micheal ploughs on doggedly. And one thing's for sure -- his old mentor-turned-tormentor could never have walked that walk.

For Bertie Ahern has no shame at all.

Irish Independent