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Bertie's back on the beat to quell seat fears

BERTIE Ahern is back pressing the flesh in his north Dublin constituency, adding to the rumour mill over his Presidential plans.

Although Mr Ahern is widely expected to step down from the Dail at the next election, he continues to do door-to-door canvassing.

Over the weekend, the ex-Taoiseach was spotted in the Dublin 7 where he was handing out fliers and listening to constituents' complaints.

He was back pounding the pavements amid fears that Fine Gael and Labour are eyeing up the two Fianna Fail seats in Dublin Central for gains in the next election.

The canvass also comes just days after Mr Ahern confirmed that he was still interested in running for the position of President. Mr Ahern has maintained a low profile since stepping down as head of Cabinet in May 2008, but locals say that he continues to be extremely active within his own constituency.

At the last election, he romped home on the first count, bringing Cyprian Brady in on transfers. Sources within the constituency are now fearful that Fianna Fail could lose both seats at the next election if Mr Ahern steps down.

The constituency set-up has been spilt by tensions between Mr Ahern's St Luke's group and supporters of Cllr Mary Fitzpatrick who also contested the 2007 poll. Cllr Fitzpatrick finished ahead of Mr Brady on first preference votes but lost out because the vast majority of Ahern's votes transferred to the former senator.

"Both Fine Gael and Labour are spotting the constituency for a potential seat gain which would be an amazing turnaround," said a local source.

"If FF didn't have any representative here, it would be a major blow to Bertie."