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Not going away: Bertie sat down for a big weekend interview to talk about his future

“Circumstances have changed a lot,” since his decision to quit Fianna Fáil, the former party leader insisted.

Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

IT APPEARED BERTIE Ahern had simply gone to ground in the wake of his local Fianna Fáil organisation backing his return to the party fold during the week.

In an unexpected move, Dublin Central members unanimously backed a motion to ask the former Taoiseach to rejoin the party – more than four years after he handed back his membership.

Local chairman Brian Mohan said the next morning he hadn’t spoken to Ahern about the vote or the result – and the former Fianna Fáil leader stayed quiet in the following days.

But it now appears he was merely keeping his powder dry for maximum impact – he sat down for an interview with the Sunday Independent’s Niamh Horan in recent days to talk about his potential return to the political scene as well as, amongst other things, a possible run for the Áras.

Speaking to Horan at Drumcondra’s Skylon Hotel, he said his “only interest” was in returning to the party locally to help win more seats in Dublin.

“The circumstances have changed a lot,” since his resignation following the publication of the Mahon tribunal report in 2012, he said.

Asked outright whether he would apply for membership, he said that any application would have to go through current leader Michéal Martin.

This is the point. If I apply for membership apparently, apparently, it has to go back to him. I would be the only person in the organisation who joins where my application would have to go back to him [...] according to him anyway.

He said it was for Martin to make a judgement on whether stopping his application would be in the interests of the party or not.

ahern1 Source: TheJournal.ie

Ahern resigned from Fianna Fáil in March 2012 following the publication of the report that month. He stepped down as Taoiseach in 2008 and as a TD in 2011.

The tribunal (officially the Tribunal of Inquiry into Certain Planning Matters and Payments) found that he did not truthfully account for payments of IR£165,000 made to accounts connected to him.

Although it did not make findings of corruption against Ahern, it proved hugely damaging to his reputation. He has disputed the findings.

He said, writing in the Sunday Independent in 2012, that his decision to resign was merely a “political” move, not an admission of anything – adding that he was deeply saddened by a motion to expel him proposed by Martin.

“I appreciate the support that party members have pledged to me unprompted in the past week,” he wrote. “I have decided the best way that I can now serve Fianna Fáil is to tender my resignation as a member of the party.”

Martin had said that Ahern betrayed the trust placed in him by the country, after the report was released.

What happens now? 

The former Taoiseach’s reluctance to make any short-term move to reapply to the party he led to three election victories is not surprising.

According to a person familiar with how the process works, it would be up to Ahern to send in an application much like any other member of the public.

The application would first be accepted, but if there was any issue with it, that would then be addressed by the party. Considering the application is from a figure as high profile as Bertie Ahern, it’s likely the issue would be dealt with by the National Executive.

Michéal Martin, speaking to Tipp FM during the week, said he didn’t anticipate his former leader making a return to 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.

ahern Ahern during a canvass for a FF candidate in the local elections in 2014 - after he had left the party. Source: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

Yesterday, Jim O’Callaghan – recently elected for the party in Dublin after years without a single Fianna Fáil seat in the capital – insisted the issue was something of a media creation.

“If we’re going to have coverage of motions passed at Fianna Fáil meetings, we’re going to need a separate radio station and a separate TV station, he said.

In fairness to Bertie Ahern, he has not applied for membership of Fianna Fáil.

With today’s high-profile interview, Ahern has signalled that he’s not willing to go quietly. While he may not be reapplying immediately, the issue of his potential comeback is one the current leader will have to confront at some stage in the future.

Interestingly, the former Taoiseach refused to rule out a potential run for the presidency, in his Sunday Independent interview.

“I would make no comment about that,” he said, when asked about it directly.

Read: Fianna Fáil branch to ask Bertie Ahern to rejoin party >

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