Wednesday 22 May 2019

Meet the latest laughing stock as Bertie comes out of the closet

Lise Hand

Folks were tenterhooks around Leinster House all day yesterday. Everyone was terribly trepidatious -- females walked the corridors together in pairs for safety while men avoided potential areas of ambush.

For once, it wasn't the rising paranoia of political assassins lurking with daggers drawn behind the arras, poised to plunge a fatal knife into the hides of Brian Cowen or Enda Kenny.

No -- this was far more frightening. It was the mortal fear that behind a cupboard or closet was Bertie Ahern, surrounded by vegetables, ginger nuts and the disintegrated remnants of the dignity of his former office.

Oh it's a long way from Brussels to brussels sprouts. The unveiling of the 'News of the World' TV ad last Friday featuring our ex-Taoiseach squatting in a kitchen cupboard was a fittingly surreal end to a bizarre and depressing week when the dead Anglo albatross was hung around the collective neck of the nation.

One would think that last week, of all weeks, would be a time when one of the self-proclaimed creators of the Celtic Tiger would actually lock himself away in the small dark place to emerge only when his presence for a Dail vote is required.

But not the Bold Bertie. There he was on the telly, flying the green flag for that great national publication, the (Irish) 'News of the World', a day after the €50bn bill for Anglo was unleashed on the citizenry. There he was squeezed into a closet, cup of tea in hand and confiding to the understandably startled bloke, "Never thought I'd end up here, but I've the latest on today's big match".

What on earth was he thinking? Or on Planet Bertie did this genuinely look like "just a bit of craic", as he airily told the 'Sunday World'? Is he locked in some sort of grim tussle with Brian Cowen to see who can become the butt of more international sniggering? Is Bertie hoping for a shout-out on David Letterman after Brian's bitter barbs on Jay Leno?

But unlike the fleet of Fianna Fail wagons which were circled post-'Morning Ireland' interview to conjure up a fantastical array of excuses for Croaky Cowen, there has been little sign of any stampede to defend the former Taoiseach.

Even the game Community Minister Pat Carey knew he was on a sticky wicket over Bertie and his ginger nuts. "What the former Taoiseach decides to do in his own personal capacity is up to that individual," he meekly offered on 'The Week in Politics' show on Sunday night.

And yesterday Communications Minister Eamon Ryan avoided commenting on the episode by admitting that he hadn't seen Bertie in the Cupboard. "I haven't seen the ad so I can't speak about a person but in general," he dodged, before getting in a swipe. "Our job as politicians at the moment is to show some real leadership, give people a sense of calm in the nervousness that is out there and in general I think we do that by being in the Dail, by debating issues in a frank, honest, balanced way," he added.

Inevitably there has been crowing among the opposition -- Labour's Ruairi Quinn branded the ad as "terrible", while Fine Gael's James Reilly sniffed that "it wasn't appropriate" -- although Fine Gael can't afford to make too much hay over leadership cock-ups these days.

And yesterday Sinn Fein's Aengus O Snodaigh suggested that it was time to end some of the perks to the former Taoiseach who pockets a six-figure sum for his musings on the Dubs and Man United -- on top of his €92,672 TDs salary, his pension, sundry expenses, a state car and generous fees for speaking engagements.

Right now it seems as if Ireland is in a new series of 'Lost', with large international audiences of economic shakers and movers avidly tuning in to revel in the vicarious sense of impending doom, the tangible sense that nobody really knows what's going on and the sure sense that there are more bizarre plot twists to come.

But nobody saw this jaw-dropping cameo appearance coming. (And to add to the bitter irony, the chap Bertie addresses from the cupboard also starred in the 'I don't know what a tracker mortgage is' ad for the Financial Regulator).

A couple of years ago Bertie Ahern fancied his chances at running for President. Now he's put the final nail in that pipe-dream by peddling a newspaper column surrounded by carrots and ginger nuts.

It really takes the biscuit. Never thought you'd end up there either, Bertie.

Irish Independent

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