TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has opened the door to Fianna Fáil for Bertie Ahern for the first time when he announced he has consulted his predecessor on Northern Ireland and Brexit issues.
r Martin, whose decision to propose Mr Ahern’s expulsion from Fianna Fáil ten years ago caused three-year-old Taoiseach to quit the party, said he had been engaged to the former party leader for the past 18 months.
He denied Mr Ahern was now an adviser to him but said he had been “valuable” in terms of working with northern communities. His comments come after calls from some in Fianna Fáil for Mr Ahern to be allowed to rejoin the party, including at the party’s parliamentary meeting on Wednesday.
“I was actually engaged to Bertie Ahern last year and a bit since the arguments over protocol,” Mr Martin told reporters on Thursday at the opening of a new Penneys store in The Square in Tallaght.
“He is very involved with Northern Ireland issues, liaises with various groups and I think that level of consultation will continue. I think he has valuable insight into all of this.”
Mr Martin said that “no one can take away from Mr Ahern his contribution to peace in Ireland and the peace process”. Cabinet colleague returning to Fianna Fáil.
He said Mr Ahern had expressed no desire in their conversations to rejoin the party and said it was “very relaxed” when they met at informal gatherings and games.
Mr. Martin proposed in March 2012 that Mr. Ahern be expelled from Fianna Fáíl after the Mahon Tribunal on Planning Matters found that the former Taoiseach had failed to truthfully declare the source of the bank account deposits.
Mr Ahern has disputed the tribunal’s findings, saying he “never took bribes or corrupt payments”.
Mr Martin said at the time his predecessor had “betrayed the confidence” of the country and the party. Mr. Ahern resigned before the matter could be formally considered by the party.
Mr Martin said on Thursday there was “context” to that exclusion proposal a decade ago and Mr Ahern’s subsequent resignation.
“After ten years, I am aware of the contribution he made to peace in the country. He has made a very significant contribution and we can see that over time,” he said, adding that there was no immediate decision on the matter.
Mr Martin said Mr Ahern’s commitment to solving the protocol impasse was “very sincere and heartfelt and that is something I value”.
Fianna Fáil’s backbench TD John Lahart, who appeared alongside Mr Martin in Penneys, welcomed the suggestion that Mr Ahern return to the party, saying: “We don’t live in an abandon culture.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/politics/taoiseach-opens-door-to-return-of-bertie-ahern-to-fianna-fail-for-first-time-41991351.html Taoiseach opens the door to Bertie Ahern’s return to Fianna Fáil for the first time