The moment Bertie came in from the cold
We wanted Bertie to be the ultimate Inquiry villain, writes Donal Lynch, but instead he salvaged his reputation
It was the moment, we thought, when those who had long since been lulled to sleep by the Banking Inquiry would be shaken awake. And it would also, many suspected, be the moment when Bertie would do the State a final piece of service: cutting through the boredom of this long-winded political theatre with a thrilling display of witness-box hubris. The whole problem of the Inquiry has been that the blame has been so unsatisfyingly dissipated. Here, finally, was the king of hearts, the most likely candidate of all to be holding its smoking gun. And from Ahern's few irascible utterances of the last few years, it sounded like he would come out fighting.
There was a reason to look forward to this. Political hate figures are important for a nation; through their own intransigence they absolve us of our electoral sins and serve as a repository for our regrets. Britain has Blair, America has George W Bush and we have Bertie. We voted him into power three times, the last one against all better judgement, when he was already engulfed by his own financial scandal. But it's much easier to blame him for all that rather than ourselves.
The script was pre- ordained: He would arrogantly, if entertainingly, deny his fault in the whole thing, we could reassure ourselves that this proved that it was all his fault and then we could all move on for good - which is surely another point of the Inquiry.