‘I think Bertie Ahern was the best taoiseach ever’
Mixed reaction from Drumcondra locals on prospect of former leader rejoining FF
Bertie Ahern’s famed local, Fagan’s pub in Drumcondra. Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill Dara Mac Donaill
On a sunny winter’s day in the north Dublin suburb of Drumcondra, it was difficult to find local enthusiasm for the prospect of former taoiseach Bertie Ahern resuming his membership of Fianna Fáil.
The only common ground that Paddy Bullman and Ahern stand on would appear to be the floor of Fagan’s pub, where they both drink.
Leaving Ahern’s famed local on Wednesday afternoon where he had been having a drink, Bullman said he was “kind of apolitical” but had never voted for Ahern. “I think he set Brian Cowen up for the fall that he created. I think the country would be a better place without him.”
“I don’t think it would be good. I don’t think Micheál Martin would be too happy about it either,” said Peter Masterson after stepping off the bus on Drumcondra Road Lower.
Ahern was “Okay” when he was in power, added Masterson, a Fianna Fáil supporter who voted for the party in this year’s general election. “He did the job reasonably well, the peace process and all that,” but “he was more or less shown up at the Moriarty tribunal . . . he lost a lot of credibility.”
For Masterson, the move to invite Bertie back into the fold has been orchestrated for the benefit of a local few, not the party as a whole. “My view would be – you know Bertie’s mafia? It’s to suit them. They can see something for themselves if he comes back. It’s not for Fianna Fáil even, it’s for themselves . . . they like the trappings of power.”
Doreen Corbally, sitting on a wall at Our Lady’s Park during a break from work, was equally sceptical. “I’m a carer, I work with sick people and I have a lot of clients around here. They don’t really have a good word to say about him and that’s just coming from around the corner there on the Richmond Road,” she said.
‘He left a mess’
If Corbally was damning, Monica Hannon, waiting for a bus across the road, was unequivocally positive about Ahern’s 11 years as the head of government. “I think he was the best taoiseach ever. That’s all I’m going to say. I think Bertie Ahern was the best taoiseach ever. He’s my neighbour and he’s the best neighbour as well.”
A short distance away, David Bone stopped to talk on the bridge over the river Tolka, metres from Ahern’s old constituency headquarters St Luke’s. He said it would be mistake for Ahern to have another tilt at electoral politics. “Whether he joins Fianna Fáil or not, I don’t care, but if he thought about running again I think he would be crazy.”
Bone said he believed Ahern now pines for the attention and influence he once enjoyed. “He misses it. He misses the whole thing of being in the public arena all the time. I’ve noticed for the last while he’s taken every opportunity he can to be on the radio, to give his opinion.
“Personally he’s quite alright but I never liked his policies or the way he did things. But people like him; he is an affable sort of person . . . He called to the door one day and he said, ‘Can I count on your vote?’
“And I said, ‘Bertie, I’m exactly like you: I’m a good socialist, so I couldn’t vote for your party’.”