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Albert and I never fell out - Bertie

BERTIE Ahern says his outright backing for Albert Reynolds as the 1997 Fianna Fail presidential election candidate would not have got him on the ticket.

Mr Ahern has also again insisted he did not back another candidate in the contest in 1997, which Mr Reynolds lost.

In an interview with the Herald, he said his backing would not have delivered a different result when Mary McAleese was selected.

"And, you know, some people said afterwards, if I'd have went out absolutely clearly on one particular person, maybe that person would have been elected. My view was that wouldn't have happened. They were all friends of mine and it was up for the party to make the decision," he said.

Mr Ahern said Mr Reynolds was "irked" at not getting the Fianna Fail nomination, but he also said they "never fell out" over it. He said whatever candidate was selected would have won the election.

"I wanted to win. I had been director of elections for Brian Lenihan seven years earlier and lost an election which I had won and then lost and then nearly won again and then lost after the Padraig Flynn interview so I didn't want to go down that road again," he said.


"You know, to be honest, I think we would have won it no matter what candidate. I think we were in a good position in '97. Mary McAleese turned out to be a wonderful president. Albert Reynolds would have too, in my view, as Michael O'Kennedy would have been. And I don't think my role in it would have made a lot of difference."

Meanwhile, US vice president Joe Biden has joined in the tributes to late Taoiseach Mr Reynolds.

Mr Biden said his role in the Downing Street Declaration "paved the way for every major peace agreement for the last 20 years".

"I urge today's leaders to continue advancing the peace process in Northern Ireland so that all of its citizens can live in the peaceful . . . community Reynolds envisioned," he said.

Mr Reynolds will lie in repose in the Mansion House in Dublin today. Members of the public are invited to file past the coffin between 1pm and 6pm. Mr Reynolds' remains will be received at the Sacred Heart Church, Donnybrook, this evening at 7.30. The funeral will take place at noon on Monday.


Niall O'Connor

Political Correspondent