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What's Bertie been up to?

The former taoiseach is before the banking inquiry this week, but what’s he been doing since he left office?

bertie 1 Source: RTÉ

Note: This article was first published on Sunday, 12 July 2015

THIS THURSDAY, FORMER taoiseach Bertie Ahern will appear before the banking inquiry in a rare public outing.

Ahern will return to Leinster House – in a public capacity – for the first time since he stood down as a TD in 2011. It’s been seven years since he resigned as taoiseach just months before the government guaranteed the state’s entire banking system.

The former Fianna Fáil leader will be asked to account for his government’s economic policies between 1997 and 2008 when the housing boom took off and there was a significant rise in public spending.

But what’s the controversial Ahern been up to in the years since he stepped down as taoiseach in May 2008? Here’s a quick recap:

He gave just one Dáil speech 

bertie dail Bertie Ahern in the Dáil (File photo) Source: RTÉ/YouTube

Ahern resigned as taoiseach on 7 May 2008, but remained a TD until the last Dáil was dissolved on 27 January 2011. In nearly three years on the Fianna Fáil backbenches, the deputy for Dublin Central spoke just once in the chamber, during statements on the death of independent TD Tony Gregory in early 2009.

I will remember Tony as a man of integrity, a hard-working public representative and an all-round decent guy. While we were political rivals, with the exception of one issue that arose way back on which we differed, we were able to get on and do our work as good friends.

He got trapped in a kitchen cupboard 

While some former world leaders might choose to live a quiet life in retirement, take on a few board memberships or give a few keynote speeches, Bertie thought it’d be a good idea to write about sport for the now-defunct Irish News of The World. Not only that, he decided to record an ad for the paper in which he was filmed with a cup of tea in a kitchen cupboard. No, seriously:

Source: 2010NOTW/YouTube

He had an eventful last day

As the Dáil sat for the last time in late January 2011, Ahern gave a quick doorstep interview to RTÉ’s Gavin Jennings outside Leinster House. “After 34 years here, practically everyday of my life, it is the end,” he said.

But things took a turn as he was confronted by People Before Profit councillor (and future TD) Joan Collins:

Source: RTÉ - IRELAND’S NATIONAL PUBLIC SERVICE MEDIA/YouTube

“There is an anger, there’s no doubt about that, people are finding hard times,” he added after a particularly awkward exchange.

He flirted with the presidency 

Amid suggestions that Ahern would make a bid for the Áras in October 2011, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin took to the airwaves to firmly rule out such a prospect. Later, Ahern said he could have been a contender.

Well I think if the party popularity didn’t go south, I mean I still would have done alright.

He claimed A LOT of expenses 

In October 2011, figures obtained by Labour TD Anne Ferris showed that Ahern had claimed over €377,000 in expenses since leaving office three years previously. This included over €366,000 to employ secretarial assistants and €10,655 in mobile phone expenses.

On foot of the revelations, the government scrapped expenses for former taoisigh. Although we later discovered that Ahern and others claimed them up to three months after they were supposed to have been abolished.

Fianna Fail Ard Fheis Source: Laura Hutton/RollingNews.ie

He resigned from Fianna Fáil 

On foot of adverse findings against him in the Mahon Tribunal report in 2012, Ahern resigned his membership of Fianna Fáil just days before he was likely to be expelled from the party.

The tribunal found that he did not truthfully account for payments of IR£165,000 made to accounts connected to him. The scathing report did not make findings of corruption against Ahern but proved hugely damaging to his reputation. He has disputed the findings.

He did the speakers circuit… but not for long 

Ironically, on the day he had to resign from Fianna Fáil, Ahern turned up at an investor’s forum in Nigeria as part of his work as a member of the Washington Speakers’ Bureau.

But a few weeks later, his profile was removed from that site and the website of the British-based Speakers’ Associates who told us that while they weren’t passing judgement “lots of people advised us to take his profile off”. Ouch.

Bertie Attacks Cowen in News of the World interview. Source: Photocall Ireland

In better news for Bertie, he still has a profile on the Fianna Fáil website, despite no longer being a member of the party.

He was assaulted 

Ahern was the victim of an assault in a Dublin city centre pub in November 2013. The former taoiseach was at a retirement party in the Sean O’Casey pub just off O’Connell Street when he was struck by a man wielding a crutch. The man was subsequently arrested and Ahern was believed to have remained in the pub after the incident.

He tried – and failed – to hang on to St Luke’s 

Ahern tried to hold onto his infamous constituency office in Drumcondra amid efforts by Fianna Fáil to get the building back. St Luke’s served as the career HQ and powerhouse of the Ahern political machine – the so-called ‘Drumcondra Mafia’ – for over 20 years. He also lived in an apartment above the office for brief periods down through the years.

bertie-ahern-meeting-with-us-special-envoy-on-northern-ireland-630x420

Fianna Fáil eventually had the ownership of the building transferred back to it in December 2012. It was recently sold for €774,000 – well above the €595,000 asking price – to bankroll the party’s election campaign.

He went to a school in Wales 

As we reported just last month, Ahern chatted with secondary school pupils in Wales about his time as taoiseach. He told of how he first got into politics and joked that the banking crisis was the reason he went grey in just six months.

Will he be a little greyer after Thursday?

Read: “Bertie clearly wanted to get a lot off his chest”

Read all our banking inquiry coverage here > 

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About the author:

Hugh O'Connell

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