Loach accuses Ahern of hijacking premiere


FILM DIRECTOR Ken Loach has accused former taoiseach Bertie Ahern of trying to hijack the premiere of a film starring Eric Cantona.

Loach said he was “disgusted by the cheap interventions” of Mr Ahern, who turned up at the premiere of Looking for Ericon Tuesday evening at the Light House cinema in Dublin’s Smithfield.

Mr Ahern appeared with his brother Maurice, who is standing for Fianna Fáil in the Dublin Central byelection.

Just before the premiere started, the Ahern brothers presented Cantona with a No 7 Dublin shirt with the legendary former Manchester United footballer’s name on the back. The brothers then left before the film started.

Loach said Cantona had “not a clue” who Bertie Ahern was, although Mr Ahern, a life-long Manchester United fan, said he met the Frenchman “a good few times” in the players’ lounge at Old Trafford.

“He [Bertie Ahern] tried to take advantage of the fact that Eric would not know who he was meeting and yet he managed to get a photograph of his brother so his brother could bask in the reflected glory of Eric Cantona. I just thought it was cheap and I hope that people saw through it,” Loach told The Irish Times.

“It made us irritated that this was just a political operator trying to hijack someone who was famous and well-respected for his own ends. It just demeans him, really, and his brother.”

Loach won the Palme D’Or at the Cannes film festival for his Irish civil war film The Wind that Shakes the Barleyin 2006. A well-known socialist, he said he would “not endorse any candidate like that”.

In an interview with Newstalk’s Tom Dunne, Loach later described Mr Ahern as a “rather dodgy right-wing politician”.

Screenwriter Paul Laverty, who wrote Looking for Eric, raised a laugh after the premiere when he told the assembled audience that a line which he had to leave out of the movie was appropriate for Mr Ahern’s behaviour. “The higher the money climbs, the more you can see its arse.”

A spokesman for Mr Ahern said the row was “silly” as Mr Ahern and his guests had been invited to the movie by the production company.

“He decided to take his brother Maurice as a guest. As a note of kindness, and to appreciate that Eric was over in Ireland and that he was such a great servant for Manchester United, we got a Dublin jersey with his name on it to present to him. It was a nice gesture and most people involved would see it that way,” the spokesman said.

“Under no circumstances did we try to hijack the film. Bertie is a great fan of Ken Loach, especially of The Wind that Shakes the Barley.”

Loach said that if Bertie Ahern was such a big Eric Cantona fan he would have stayed to see the film, but the former taoiseach’s spokesman said the brothers had to go canvassing with the byelection imminent.

“He’s looking forward to seeing the film over the next few weeks when the election’s over,” the spokesman added.