WHEN MICHEAL MARTIN made his first speech as the new Fianna Fail leader this week, he said the party “has always been bigger than its leaders”.
A statement of humility or a bid to distance FF from its recent disastrous leadership in time for the general election campaign: his comments could be read either way. However, there was no doubt that the Cork TD was willing to distance himself from one former Taoiseach in particular this morning.
Speaking on Today with Pat Kenny on RTE Radio1, Martin was asked by Pat Kenny if he agreed with Bertie Ahern that it was a shame a national stadium had not been built in Ireland during the boom years. Ahern said yesterday on his last full day at the Dail that it was one of his biggest regrets that he didn’t manage to push the so-called ‘Bertie Bowl’ through when he was in charge.
Martin was unequivocal when he replied that Bertie was “obsessed” with the issue of Ireland getting a publicly-owned national stadium for holding national sporting and public events. He added:
I don’t share his obsession.
This dismissal of one of Bertie’s bugbears is in line with a comment from a Fianna Fail spokesperson on the interview Bertie Ahern gave RTE News yesterday as he exited the Dail after 34 years as a TD.
The FF spokesperson was asked by the Irish Independent for comment on the controversy sparked by Ahern’s remarks on the ‘Bertie Bowl’ and his comments that he might have done something about the banks crisis when he was in power if only “somebody somewhere” had told him they were in trouble. The spokesperson said:
What happened with Bertie is irrelevant to what this election is about, which is about the future. That’s what Micheal Martin is about. Personality politics is not what this election is about.