Monday 20 November 2017

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

A LONG VIEW OF BERTIE: Did the former Taoiseach’s performance at the Banking Inquiry mark a point where we begin to put the Ahern years in office into some kind of context? Photo: Tony Gavin
A LONG VIEW OF BERTIE: Did the former Taoiseach’s performance at the Banking Inquiry mark a point where we begin to put the Ahern years in office into some kind of context? Photo: Tony Gavin
IN STRAIGHT AWAY: Pearse Doherty pointed out the similarities between Ahern’s autobiography and his opening statement
ELICITED A SLIGHT SNARL: Joe Higgins accused Bertie of being a ‘sponsor’ of light-touch regulation which drew a counter-accusation from Ahern
ASKED ABOUT THE GALWAY TENT: Senator Susan O’Keeffe raised the question of developers ‘paying for access’ to the Taoiseach
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

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.

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