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Bertie still not getting message

What planet does former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern inhabit?

His gratuitous attack on rank-and-file party members in last night's TV3 documentary on Fianna Fail demonstrated yet again that, more than three years after being forced to quit as Taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader, Mr Ahern still doesn't get it.

One of the dangers of being too successful for too long in politics is that one eventually loses touch with the reality inhabited by ordinary voters.

Mr Ahern, successively Minister for Labour and Finance between 1987 and 1994, leader of the opposition from 1994 to 1997 and Taoiseach from 1997 to 2008, is a very good example of this.

Not for Mr Ahern the savage pay cuts, tax increases, negative equity and job losses that have been the lot of those of us who are now suffering the consequences of his disastrous mismanagement of the economy.

On Planet Bertie everything was hunky-dory until he was forced to quit in May 2008, when even his own Fianna Fail party colleagues tired of his ever more fantastic explanations of his financial affairs to the Mahon Tribunal.

Mr Ahern's deluded opinion is that it was his successors who made a mess of the economy and that, if only he had been left in situ, the good times would still be rolling. Give us a break. Far from bequeathing a healthy economy to his successors, the reality is that by May 2008 the Celtic Tiger was on its last legs. If he hadn't been pushed, it would have been Mr Ahern rather than Brian Cowen who would have presided over Ireland's economic implosion.

Mr Ahern took the greatest boom in Irish economic history and transformed it into a disaster of epic proportions.

Voters recognise this which is why they elected just 19 Fianna Fail TDs at the last general election, only a quarter of the total won by the party in the 2007 general election.

In fairness the current Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin recognises the low esteem in which his party is now held by most Irish voters. It was this recognition that impelled his decision not to run a candidate in next month's presidential election.

Meanwhile Mr Ahern carries on as if nothing has changed. Calling individual party members, those who knock on doors and stuff leaflets through envelopes at election time, "a useless bunch of good-for-nothings", while at the same time claiming over €270,000 of secretarial and mobile phone expenses since leaving office, demonstrates a degree of detachment from reality that would be of interest to any worthwhile psychiatrist.

If Fianna Fail is ever to recover its pre-eminent position in Irish politics then it will have to first acknowledge and atone for the grievous mistakes of the past 15 years. That means cutting Mr Ahern, the man primarily responsible for those mistakes, adrift. Unless and until it does so, Fianna Fail, along with Mr Ahern, is doomed to irrelevance.