Micheál Martin does not ‘anticipate’ Bertie Ahern return

‘The views that I articulated four years ago still stand’ Fianna Fail leader says

Micheal Martin sought to expel Bertie Ahern in 2012 over the findings of the Mahon tribunal, although the former taoiseach resigned first.  Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Micheal Martin sought to expel Bertie Ahern in 2012 over the findings of the Mahon tribunal, although the former taoiseach resigned first. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Fianna Fáil Micheál Martin has signalled that he does not want former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to rejoin the party.

Speaking on Tipp FM this morning, Mr Martin said he does not “anticipate” Mr Ahern coming back as a party member.

He also said his views on the matter had not changes since he moved to expel Mr Ahern four years ago following the report of the Mahon Tribunal. Mr Ahern resigned in 2012 before he was expelled.

Mr Ahern this week said he is willing to rejoin Fianna Fáil if his local organisation wanted him to do so and a motion was passed at a constituency meeting in Dublin Central inviting him to return.

Mr Martin, however, on Thursday morning, said: “I don’t anticipate him coming back into the party.”

“Bertie resigned four years ago in the aftermath of the Mahon Tribunal and he effectively resigned from politics and I think he has been enjoying his retirement.

“During the week a motion came out of the blue from Dublin Central, his own branch in Dublin Central.

“Nothing has changed since four years ago. I don’t anticipate Bertie Ahern coming back into the party and I don’t see any prospect of that.

“He is out and about talking about issues and that is good that he can bring his experience to bear in terms of the general issues like Brexit or the American elections but times have moved on in Dublin, politics has moved on within Dublin.”

Mr Martin said the “party has moved”, adding that there is a “new generation of TDs in Dublin now” for Fianna Fáil.

“The crash came in 2011, the economic crash, and we were wiped out in Dublin as a result of that. The late Brian Lenihan was the only TD we got in 2011 but since then we have been building up on the ground in local elections. It is going to be a long haul back.”

When asked if he would actively block Mr Ahern joining, Mr Martin said he didn’t see “any prospect” of Mr Ahern rejoining.

“I don’t think it is a prospect. The views that I articulated four years ago still stand.”

He said that, in 2012, it “didn’t come” to Mr Ahern being expelled.

“That was on the cards at the time in the aftermath of the Mahon Tribunal. Those issues still pertain.”

While he said the pair do not talk on a “regular basis” they would see each other in Croke Park or at other events.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheal Martin has signalled that he does not want former taoiseach Bertie Ahern to rejoin the party.

Speaking on Tipp FM this morning, Mr Martin said he does not “anticipate” Mr Ahern coming back as a party member.

Mr Ahern this week said he is willing to rejoin Fianna Fáil if his local organisation wanted him to do so.

Mr Martin, however, said: “I don’t anticipate him coming back into the party.”

On Wednesday Mr Ahern said that members in the Dublin Central constituency are focusing on winning his old seat back for the party and believe he could help them.

Mr Martin sought to expel Mr Ahern in 2012 over the findings of the Mahon tribunal, although the former taoiseach resigned first.

Numerous sources said Mr Martin would likely have to personally approve any bid by Mr Ahern to rejoin even if an application may technically have to be considered by the national executive.

The tribunal found Mr Ahern failed to truthfully account for a number of financial transactions, but did not make a finding of corruption against him.

Following the tribunal findings, Mr Martin said that while the “central allegation” against Mr Ahern was “not sustained, the evidence confirmed by the tribunal and its comments relating to him are extremely serious”.

Mr Ahern said he was unaware that a motion was going to be tabled at a constituency meeting in the Skylon Hotel in Drumcondra, Dublin, earlier this week inviting him to return.

He was in Ukraine at the time working with Crisis Management Initiative , a non-profit organisation.

Long-term associate

The motion at the Dublin Central comhairle Dáil ceantair in the hotel was tabled by Chris Wall, a long-term associate of Mr Ahern, and was unanimously supported by the estimated 30 people present.

Mr Ahern insisted he was unaware that Mr Wall, supported by Brian Mohan, another ally of the former taoiseach, was going to table the motion. He said he would consider rejoining the party but insisted he would not run for election again.

“It would be just as an ordinary member,” said Mr Ahern. “I didn’t know anything about it, but when they do approach me, I’ll think about it.

“What they are doing, and I agree with them, is they are trying to win a seat in Dublin Central and Dublin North West. They know I know a lot of people in the area and would have influence in the area.”

He pointed to the work he had done in recent months in helping to resolve a dispute between the GAA and the management committee of the Irish Handball Centre behind Croke Park.

He said people such as Mr Mohan and Mr Wall were also seeking to work with others such as former TDs Dermot Fitzpatrick and Cyprian Brady to try to win back a seat for Fianna Fáil.

He says he still sees Mr Martin at events and functions. “I have a friendly relationship with him.”

Flawed

A number of frontbenchers privately said they believe Mr Ahern should be allowed to rejoin.

One disagreed, however, saying “he left because of Mahon, Mahon hasn’t changed”.

Another said the Mahon tribunal was “flawed” and Mr Ahern, as a three-time general election winner, should be listened to.

There are contesting views over whether Mary Fitzpatrick, a councillor and former general and European election candidate who has clashed with Mr Ahern’s supporters in the past, was present when the motion was tabled.

Some sources insist she was, while others say Ms Fitzpatrick had left to attend to family business and was later informed of the development by a phone call.