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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo Bertie Ahern resigned from Fianna Fáil in 2012 after the Mahon Tribunal. He made the move before Micheál Martin sought to expel him from the party.
# comeback on the cards
Taoiseach says he is open to seeing Bertie Ahern return to Fianna Fáil
Micheál Martin said that he has been engaging with the former Taoiseach in recent times.

THE TAOISEACH HAS indicated he would be open to allowing former party colleague Bertie Ahern back into Fianna Fáil.

Micheál Martin said that he has been engaging with the former taoiseach in recent times, particularly about issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Yesterday evening, it was proposed during the Fianna Fáil parliamentary party that Ahern should be allowed to make a return to the party as part of its plans to mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking in Tallaght today, Martin said: “In terms of Bertie Ahern, I have been engaging with Bertie Ahern actually over the last year and a bit, since the rows on the protocol, and he’s very involved in Northern Ireland issues, he maintains contacts with different groups.

“From my perspective, like that level of consultation will continue because I think he has invaluable insights to all of that.”

Ahern resigned from Fianna Fáil in 2012 after the Mahon Tribunal. He stepped down as Taoiseach in 2008 and as a TD in 2011. He made the move before Martin sought to expel him from the party.

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.

It was scathing in its treatment of the former Taoiseach, rejecting much of the evidence he provided in connection to a substantial number of lodgements made in the 1990s.

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

Martin said that his former colleague has experience with a range of groups in Northern Ireland.

featureimage Cate McCurry / PA Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Fianna Fail TD John Lahart at the opening of Penney’s in Tallaght today. Cate McCurry / PA / PA

“He has reached out to communities in the north and is sort of picking up perspectives in different communities and that’s been valuable in terms of engaging and discussions on that,” the Fianna Fail leader added.

“No one can take from the contribution he made to peace in Ireland and to the peace process, so the fullness of time certainly we will give him that consideration.

“It’s very relaxed when we meet.”

When remined that he sought to expel his predecessor from the party, Martin said that he resigned in the wake of the tribunal.

“As far as I am concerned, it’s ten years on, I’m conscious of the contribution he has made to peace in the country.

“He made a very significant contribution,” Martin added.

“There’s no immediate decisions yet. He has his views on these things as well.

“We’ve had good conversations, we meet at informal occasions, at matches and that.

“His is commitment to making sure that we can try and resolve the current issues around the protocol are very sincere and heartfelt, and that’s something we can take value from.”

Fianna Fail TD for Dublin South West John Lahart also said he was open to the idea of seeing Ahern return.

“Well, we don’t live in a cancel culture,” he added.

“I look around at the correspondents and the journalists here and I don’t think there’s one of you that at some stage of your career in the last decade has not sought out Bertie Ahern specifically.

“There’s no reason why Fianna Fáil should be any different and a lot of this happens under the radar.

“I think the discussion last night was specifically in the context of the value of experience that he brings, particularly in the context of the 25th year of the Good Friday Agreement next year.

“I think that’s the story element of this.”

A spokesperson for Ahern told The Journal this issue has come up many times before and the former Taoiseach does not wish to comment. However, she it is accurate to state that Ahern “keeps contact with the Taoiseach and relevant Government departments on Northern Ireland”. 

Additional reporting from Céimin Burke

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