'I'll spend my time with grandchildren...and Sky Sports'

It was flat beer at Fagan's as Jane Last sees the ever-proud Bertie going out with a whimper

WAS it meant to end like this?

Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach, statesman, controller of the Celtic Tiger and her many shameless cubs.

A 40-year career in politics and a 10-year stint as Taoiseach.

No mean feat, I'm sure you'll agree.

And there he was at 10.30pm in his favourite watering hole Fagan's, surrounded by his loyal lieutenants of the O'Donovan Rossa Cumann who, less than two hours earlier, had listened to him confirm he would not be seeking re-election.

There was plenty of standing space this time as the lounge was half empty. The news rolled out on the nine o'clock news -- enough for friends, and foes, of Bertie to get down to Fagan's and shake hands with the man himself. But the lounge never filled up -- perhaps it had something to do with the timing of Bertie's statement over the festive season, with many people away. Or perhaps people no longer cared.

The same lounge had welcomed Bertie and his pal Bill Clinton in the Nineties, and was packed to the rafters when he stepped down as Taoiseach more than two years ago.

Patrons were watching the darts on the TV and it appears Bertie and his crowd were mindful of not disrupting it, with around 20 of them tucked away in the corner of the lounge close to the bar.

A low-key ending to a high- profile political career.


In keeping with this theme, a small gathering of media was situated outside St Luke's since the news became public, before being ushered in to the foyer where Bertie agreed to do pictures and say a few words other than his statement.

Anglo was his biggest regret; he might run for the Aras; and if we wanted him to apologise, then we would have to credit him for the "gains" he made during his time as Taoiseach.

There was no strained voice, no tears and no sad emotions.

Instead, he told of how he was looking forward to watching more Sky Sports.

"When I stepped down as Taoiseach...I never got Sky Sports so on the first day out I got Sky Sports, so that was a big treat," he explained.

Other things he included were hitting the gym, not heading to St Luke's every Sunday, spending more time with his daughters and grandchildren, twins Jay and Rocco (3), and Robyn (1).

And looking ahead to the day when he might see his twin grandsons line out for the Boys in Blue in nearby Croke Park.

However, he remains on an electoral footing, promising Cyprian Brady he'll continue canvassing for him and telling us that he had only completed a leaflet drop on Brady's behalf earlier that day.

After 15 minutes with him, Bertie told us he was looking forward to having a pint in Fagan's -- and his handlers graciously ushered us out the door.

There was no big bang from either side -- just a whimper.

As we made our way up the street, one passer-by asked: "Well, did he retire? Did he? About time."

"I wish him well and he was good for the area. But enough is enough," said Drumcondra woman Orla Neville.

Surrounded by his loyal lieutenants and family, it was a somewhat relieved Bertie that sipped his pint of beloved Bass last night.

So was it meant to end like this? Perhaps Bertie is hoping that history and hindsight will be a lot kinder.