Ahern says fall of FF 'snookered' his bid for presidency


FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has said he believes he would have “done all right” in the presidential election but for the decline in the popularity of Fianna Fáil.

The ex-Fianna Fáil leader is now predicting that the Fine Gael candidate, Dublin MEP Gay Mitchell, will win the presidency.

Mr Ahern famously denounced his Fine Gael opponent in the Dáil as “a waffler” in December 1994, but he now describes him as a “good friend” who is “in the driving seat” to win the presidential race.

However, in an interview due to be broadcast on a student radio station, the ex-taoiseach blames Fianna Fáil’s unpopularity for “snookering” his own presidential prospects.

Mr Mitchell is appealing to Fianna Fáil members to support his presidential bid but it is unclear how voters will react to an endorsement by the former taoiseach.

“I’d say Mitchell definitely has it,” said Mr Ahern in the interview with Dublin City University’s student radio station DCUfm.

The interview was recorded in late July as part of a broader student research project and is due for broadcast this autumn.

Of Mr Mitchell’s chances, Mr Ahern said “his party is on 40 per cent of the vote, and if they run a good campaign there is no reason he won’t hold his party vote”.

Mr Ahern confirmed he considered running in the election.

“I still would have done all right. I mean they have done some figures and I would probably sit in around 30 per cent, which you haven’t a hope with as the party is on 20 per cent.”

He added that “the party popularity is the thing that snookers it, because if your party isn’t winnable...”

Mr Ahern said: “If there was no downturn and if it wasn’t all the hassle of the tribunals and everything else, then you could have had a good run at it.”

He predicted that “nobody is going to win it outright – like Mary McAleese had it won on the first count”.

Asked about a possible future candidacy in the following presidential election, he said: “Normally what happens in this country, if a president does a good job they stay on, so that’s 14 years, so that ends any chance that I’ll have.”

He also rejected suggestions that the Mahon tribunal would reject the evidence he gave on his personal finances. “The only thing that is important to me is the central allegations. And what the tribunal says about the other trash is irrelevant.”