Ahern reveals deep religious conviction and hope of heaven

Mon, Feb 8, 2010, 00:00

FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has said that he lives by the Ten Commandments, the Beatitudes and his own conscience, and hopes to get to heaven when he dies.

Speaking to Gay Byrne in RTÉ’s Meaning of Lifeseries last night, Mr Ahern described himself as a regular Mass-goer, but said he had not been to Confession for 40 years.

In a lengthy interview, Mr Ahern revealed that he and the former DUP leader Dr Ian Paisley bonded over their shared faith when they had their first formal meeting together. The meeting took place in January 2004 at the Irish Embassy in London.

He had little regard for Paisley other than for his political skills, but “the one thing that we were able to share” was their faith.

He recalled how Dr Paisley began a prayer in the Irish Embassy and he joined in with him. He said the prayer was “ like our Confiteor” and officials had wondered why they had spent so much time alone. The pair started discussing their values and the rules by which they lived.

“I started saying that I lived by the Commandments, by the Beatitudes – he was surprised that I knew them – and by my own conscience. I told him that I couldn’t be informed by making it up on the hoof. That’s where we hit it off,” Mr Ahern said.

He also revealed that, as a supporter of the religious orders, he would not have set up the various inquiries into child abuse, but he was persuaded to do so by abuse campaigner Christine Buckley.

“If I had been following my own prejudices, I wouldn’t have set up any of these things. I came to the conclusion that these people were telling the total truth.”

His government came under severe criticism for the deal they did with the religious orders, capping their contribution to the redress board at €128 million while taxpayers will have to pay out €1 billion.

As a Catholic, he wanted the church to “do well”, but it could not retreat behind canon law, he said. “There was one time when the church tried to put up the defence of canon law and my colleagues just looked up to the sky and thought they were joking. Unfortunately, they weren’t joking, they made bad decisions.”

Mr Ahern said he was convinced that life “did not end at the graveyard” and he often prayed to dead relatives for guidance.

He used Mass as an opportunity to pray for people in trouble and stayed off alcohol in November and at Lent. He rationalised inexplicable events, such as the death of a young person, by stating that God cannot influence “every single thing”.

He said he received a “fair amount of hate mail” about “living in sin”, but it upset other people more than it did him and he admitted that he had not lived up to his parents’ “stereotype” of married life.

Mr Ahern said he believed in heaven and hoped that he did enough to get into it, but if he didn’t “at least what I meant to do was good”.

“I believe that if you can live with yourself and have peace of mind, hopefully the rest will look after itself and hopefully that will be heaven.”