Wednesday 17 January 2018

John Downing: Despite all the Bertie bashing, we voted for him three times

Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was assaulted in Dublin pub last Friday evening
Ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern was assaulted in Dublin pub last Friday evening

JUST this time of year, and just seven years ago, Bertie Ahern was cock a hoop. He had been feted by 5,000 adoring Fianna Fail delegates at an ard fheis in the Citywest Hotel, on the edge of Dublin, and his party were up six points in the opinion polls to 39pc, close to the ballpark figure which had allowed him in 1997 and 2002 to put durable coalition governments together. How did he do that? Well, he became the focus of a rather squalid series of stories about receiving cash gifts or 'digouts' from various sources in the early 1990s when he had been finance minister and tipped as a future Taoiseach.

That controversy raged for all of October 2006 and included a remarkable and emotional interview with Bryan Dobson on RTE. And the more Fine Gael and Labour quite rightly attacked Ahern's wonky take on standards, the more they went down in the opinion polls.

Why am I parading this history lesson from late 2006 this morning? Well, last Friday night some gentleman decided to try to wear a crutch off the head of our three-times Taoiseach at a social function in a Dublin pub.

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