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Gone in 12 minutes - the man who blew the boom

GONE in 12 minutes. That's just how long the chief architect of our woes Bertie Ahern could bother staying in the Dail chamber as the current Finance Minister went about mopping up the mess left by him.

The man ultimately responsible for our economic downfall looked straight ahead as Minister Lenihan began his 40 minute speech.

As Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the other person for this appalling mess, writhed and shifted uncomfortably beside Minister Lenihan, Bertie was gone in a puff of smoke by 5.12pm, scurrying for the door, and perhaps the safety of his Mercedes S Class.

As Minister Lenihan outlined the horrific state of our banking system, the former Taoiseach could listen no more. Perhaps it was guilt. Or may be lethargy had kicked in.

Either way, it was less than a quarter of an hour of his time for our suffering.

The Finance Minister said that our "worst fears have been surpassed" and pointed the finger at an "abysmal" regulatory system and to the failure of the Central Bank and the Government.

But Bertie sat emotionless, a thousand-yard stare fixed on his face as blow after blow was delivered.

Before entering the chamber, Bertie posed happily for a series of snaps with two elderly ladies in the foyer.

He laughed and chatted with colleagues on his way into the House before taking his seat in the chamber.

But at 5.12pm, Bertie's seat was empty.

More important thoughts must have played on his mind.

After all, Manchester United were playing Bayern Munich in the Champions' League.

Bertie was at the helm of the Celtic Tiger ship during the decade of boom and bubble.

He cajoled the builders, seduced the bankers and placated the public sector.

During his tenure as Taoiseach, State spending ballooned by 50pc as public-sector workers demanded, and received, massive pay rises.

The result was Europe's highest-paid doctors, and pension schemes in which payments are linked to current salaries, rather than those at the time of retirement.

However, he has consistently denied that he is responsible for the mess that we find ourselves in.

Bertie says that the failure of the Lehman Brothers in the US in September 2008 was the sole reason for the Irish economic woes.

He has directed the gaze elsewhere, pointing towards a worldwide economic collapse and failing to recognise the role that he had to play.

Throughout the entire speech, almost the full contingent of Fianna Fail listened to Finance Minister Brian Lenihan's damning words.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen sat beside Lenihan, but the most notable absentee was our former leader who should be accountable.

Opposition parties were incredulous at the revelations.

Labour finance minister Joan Burton asked the question: "Is there a shred of accountability?"

"You, the Government were surrounded by bankers, took advice only from bankers," she said.

"It's clear that crony capitalism was inherent.

"This is Fianna Fail's 'final solution' today," she added. "That phrase from Iraq, 'Shock and Awe', well I am in shock and awe."

Meanwhile Richard Bruton, Fine Gael finance spokesman, noted that there was an "inherent embrace between the Government, regulator and the banks".