Bruton says Ahern not capable of making hard decisions
The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, is a "sporty cheerleader" who will be afraid to take the hard decisions needed over the next five years, former Taoiseach, Mr John Bruton has charged.
In a stinging attack on Mr Ahern's record in office, Mr Bruton said: "Bertie was OK for the boom times, but Ahern is not the man we need, when action is what we must have."
Speaking in Summerhill, Co Meath, the former Fine Gael leader added: "For the next five years Ireland will need a chief executive, not a sporty cheerleader.
"This election should be about governing - the ability to create consensus - and even more so to make decisions in unforeseen and unforeseeable circumstances."
Predicting more testing times ahead, he went on: "The next government will probably have a lot more hard and unpopular decisions to make than the old one did.
"One thing is very clear, Bertie Ahern has shown no capacity or ability to make hard or unpopular decisions.
" Is Bertie Ahern able to make hard or unpopular decisions? "I do not think so.
"Would an overall majority make him more decisive than when in coalition with the Progressive Democrats? I do not think so," he told a Fine Gael gathering.
A Fianna Fáil majority government would make the situation worse, he believed. "With an overall majority, Bertie Ahern would have unlimited freedom to dither for five years. He dithered on Ray Burke.
"He dithered on Denis Foley. He dithered on Padraig Flynn. He dithered on Liam Lawlor. He dithered on a national spatial plan, on Aer Lingus, on taxis, on Luas, on decentralisation.
"If postponement was an option that was the option that the Taoiseach chose. Five years of indirection is enough," said Mr Bruton, who is running again in the Meath constituency.
"The electorate should choose politicians who will lay out problems honestly and take decisions quickly. The present Government has neither of these characteristics," he went on.
Recently economic commentators have suggested that hard decisions may be necessary on taxation and spending if the heavily-indebted US economy slows down again, or if the euro rises in value, he said.
"Fine Gael does not subscribe to this pessimistic scenario, but its programme is framed to respond to changed circumstances - and within the Maastricht constraints."Will Bertie Ahern be able to make the choices necessary if this pessimism proves correct?
Equally, the next government will have to take "hard decisions" to prevent the "crippling cost of insurance" from forcing young people off the roads, and businesses into insolvency. "Hard decisions arising out of the implementation of the Good Friday agreement will be necessary if it comes under challenge from whatever source," he concluded.