Ahern downplays criticism of Fianna Fáil leader

Former taoiseach says nothing should be read into comments at election meeting

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern  reported as saying Fianna Fáil’s performance was “brutal” at present. Photograph: Alan Betson

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern reported as saying Fianna Fáil’s performance was “brutal” at present. Photograph: Alan Betson

Fri, Apr 18, 2014, 01:00

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has made light of criticism of Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin attributed to him after a meeting organised for local election hopefuls in Drumcondra.

Mr Ahern attended the meeting for local Fianna Fáil candidate Brian Mohan this week and was reported as saying that the party’s performance was “brutal” at the moment.

He is reported as having told the meeting that he did “not think much” of party leader Micheál Martin who served under Mr Ahern for 13 years, 10 in a ministerial role. Mr Martin succeeded Bertie Ahern’s successor, Brian Cowen, in 2011.

‘Private meeting’
When contacted and asked about the comments attributed to him, Mr Ahern replied: “Last night was a private meeting to support a Fianna Fail candidate whose father canvassed for me for decades.”

The former Taoiseach added: “I did say we are all Fianna Fáil supporters and should canvass for the party in the election. Nothing more should be read into it,” he said.

Mr Ahern is no longer a Fianna Fáil party member and told the meeting in Drumcondra that he would not be in a position to canvass because of a “gammy leg”.

His reported assessment that the party is faring poorly will come as a surprise to strategists who have said its 25 per cent showing of support in the most recent Irish Times /Ipsos mrbi opinion poll has bolstered morale within the party.

When contacted, a spokesman for Mr Martin said he had no comment to make concerning Mr Ahern’s comments.

Election victories
Mr Ahern resigned as party leader and taoiseach in 2008 after leading Fianna Fáil to three successive general election victories.

However, in recent years, his reputation is seen to have been tarnished by the planning tribunal findings in relation to his personal finances – and so-called “dig-outs” – as well as widespread public negativity in relation to his role in the economic and banking crisis.

It is known that Mr Ahern and Mr Martin did not enjoy a particularly close relationship when they were colleagues in government and in Fianna Fáil. Although this is the first occasion in which Mr Ahern has criticised Mr Martin in a public context.