Bertie Ahern: Fianna Fáil TDs ‘delighted’ at return of former taoiseach to the party

The move will fuel speculation that he will seek to run for the presidency in 2025

Several Fianna Fáil TDs and Senators have welcomed Mr Ahern’s readmission to the party, a decade after he quit the party in the wake of the findings of the Mahon tribunal.

Support for Mr Ahern’s return to the party fold was outlined by party chairman, Brendan Smith, Minister of State Sean Fleming, TDs Cathal Crowe and Padraig O’Sullivan as well as Senators Mark Daly, Erin McGreehan and Eugene Murphy.

There was praise for Mr Ahern’s peace-building work as taoiseach as well as for his previous ministerial role in social partnership and industrial relations.

Mr Ahern’s readmission to the party will fuel speculation that he will seek to run for the presidency in 2025.


Fianna Fáil confirmed that Mr Ahern had been readmitted to the party earlier on Wednesday. A spokeswoman said: “We received a membership application and it was accepted by the Party.”

The Irish Times understands Mr Ahern has paid the €20 annual fee to be a member and under party rules he will have no voting rights for the first year.

Contributors at the parliamentary party meeting on Wednesday evening are said to have said that his work is still appreciated by the public around country.

Separately, Laois Offaly TD Barry Cowen said he was “delighted” to see Mr Ahern rejoining the party.

He said Mr Ahern’s “vast experience and knowledge will be an inspiration to other members in Dublin Central and beyond.”

He added: “He has always been available to assist members and other public reps.

“His keen interest in our country’s welfare has extended to also offering advice and assistance over the years to Government representative on matters especially relating to the Peace Process.

“It is especially welcome that he will partake in many upcoming 25th anniversary Good Friday Commemorative events as a member of our party, considering the leading role he played in ensuring its success.”

Asked if Mr Ahern should be Fianna Fáil’s presidential candidate he replied: “That’s another days work ... for the moment am just glad he’s rejoined as an ordinary member.”

Dublin South-West TD John Lahart said: “We don’t live in a ‘cancel culture’; It’s clear that Bertie Ahern has something unique and valuable to contribute on the north.”

Mr Ahern will appear alongside Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan at an event in his constituency to mark the Belfast Agreement on Thursday evening.

On Mr Ahern’s readmittance to the party Mr O’Callaghan told The Irish Times: “As Fianna Fáil commemorates 25 years of the Good Friday Agreement, it is important and appropriate that Bertie Ahern, one of the driving forces behind that agreement, rejoins the party.”

Neither Mr O’Callaghan nor John Lahart offered a view on the question of whether Mr Ahern should be the party’s presidential candidate.

Fianna Fáil Senator Niall Blaney, who raised the prospect of Mr Ahern rejoining Fianna Fáil at a parliamentary party meeting last September, told The Irish Times: “I’m delighted he’s back.

He said it is coming: “At a time when we need every hand at the wheel in an effort to share the island and get balanced regional development and ... an economy that works for every citizen on the island.”

Mr Blaney said the issue of who will be Fianna Fáil’s candidate for the presidency will be dealt with “in due course”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin signalled last year that the party would give consideration to Mr Ahern rejoining.

It came after the issue was raised at a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement.

Mr Martin had proposed Mr Ahern’s expulsion in the wake of the Mahon tribunal findings in 2012 but Mr Ahern quit the party himself.

Speaking last September Mr Martin said: “He resigned. There was a context there and issue there,” he said.

“As far as I’m concerned, you know, it’s 10 years on. I’m conscious of the contribution he has made to peace in the country, a very significant contribution.”

He also said: “In the fullness of time, certainly we could give that [Mr Ahern rejoining] consideration”.

Mr Martin was asked about the conjecture that Mr Ahern could be Fianna Fáil’s candidate in the 2025 presidential election during an interview with The Irish Times in December.

He said: “It’s a long way off and I’m very conscious that one must respect President Higgins. I’m not even sure that Bertie would want to be president.”

Asked if the pair were now friends Mr Martin said: “Certainly relationships have improved a lot.”

He added: “We get on quite well. We’ll meet at a match or he’ll leave a message for me to give him a ring, invariably about the North. Before I went to meet Boris on one occasion he would have rung to say I think this is where they are. The North is his big interest. He’s involved in a group in the North with people from the loyalist community and unionism – former politicians. So he has a good sense of where loyalism is at.”

Labour TD Aodhán Ó Ríordáin said he finds it “outrageous” that Fianna Fáil would admit Mr Ahern back into the party at a time when there is debate on ethics in public life and strengthening the powers of the Standards in Public Office Commission (Sipo) given the outcome of the Mahon tribunal.

He questioned if Fianna Fáil accepts the Tribunal’s findings.

Mr Ahern, a former Dublin Central TD was taoiseach between 1997 and 2008 and is credited as being one of the key architects of the Belfast Agreement, the Northern Ireland peace deal signed on Good Friday 1998.

He won three elections as Fianna Fáil leader and served as taoiseach during the Celtic Tiger boom, leaving office shortly before the subsequent economic crash.

The Mahon tribunal rejected Mr Ahern’s evidence in relation to his personal finances as mostly “untrue” and found that, contrary to his sworn evidence, there were no dig-outs in 1993 and 1994.

Mr Ahern has disputed the tribunal’s findings responding to the report in 2012 saying: “I have dedicated my life to politics and serving the interest of the Irish people in politics.

“I have never accepted a bribe or a corrupt payment.”

In a 2015 interview Mr Ahern said he wanted to let bygones be bygones with tribunal chairman Justice Alan Mahon.

He also said: “I don’t hold any grudges to him or his legal team. I want to move on with my life, but they’re wrong, they were wrong then, they’re wrong now and they’ll be wrong ‘til the day I die.”

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn is a Political Correspondent at The Irish Times