April 3, 2008

Bertie in better times

Posted in Politics · 17 comments ·

As An Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, prepares for his departure from office in May, we dug into the archives to find an interview with David and Bertie from May 2002, 2 days after the general election, as it became apparent that the outgoing government would be returned.

Video Interview, runtime: 15:34
Original Air Date: 19th May 2002

This video is no longer available.

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  1. Jerry

    “A political donation for personal use” – Seriously. Any other country would have got rid of him on the spot. We Irish are stupid, blind and apathetic. If he bled us out of millions, we deserved it.

  2. Malcolm McClure

    Come off it Jerry. Bertie delivered on Health, Education,Infrastructure, Unemployment and GFA. He even allowed a breath of fresh air to ventilate the whole clerical abuse miasma, in spite of his personal distaste for the matter. Ireland is a better place from almost every point of view, compared with when Bertie first entered cabinet. Who cares if his personal affairs got a bit tangled? Only the culchee politicos who never had the breadth of vision to understand what the likes of the O’Reillys, the Ryans, Denis O’Brien and a few dozen others are trying to do. Bertie was a match for all of them as well as for Paisley, Blair and the Eurocrats. He deserves our gratitude, not a lot of carping over a few thousand punt.

  3. Tom

    Bertie delivered on Health,Education,Infrastructure, Unemployment and GFA….; My arse, they have completely wasted the spoils of the last 10-15 years growth. We still have 3rd world heath care, over crowded class rooms, prefab class rooms through out the country, how many parents have to make voluntary contributions to their childrens school, the M50 mess, CIE still 3rd world, no integrated ticketing, all road projects are over budget and late by years, unempolyment is now back to 1999 figures.

    They have completely wasted the fruits of the celtic tiger, Bertie and FF will be exposed for the wasters, bottlers ther are. they are afraid to make any hard decision, take on any vested interest. Bough ever election with spending and promises, Its all spin and bollix with these lads, all fur coat and no knickers. And soon it will be all exposed when the resession hits and the money runs out, and its us poor saps the tax payers that have to pay for the bloated public sector that FF have created to keep them in power through higher taxes.

    I think Berties last act of taking Bev Flynn back into the fold sums up everything that is bad about FF and their supporters. Rewarding the cute hoor, where is the accountability. Ireland 2008 still a banana Republic.

  4. Ed

    Tom, you’re wasting your time – Bertie and Bev. are the best that this country will ever elect – we know that we’re on a mission to nowhere. So chill out like a stereotypical Caribbean and just let it all go by.

  5. AndrewGMooney

    It’s instructive to compare the resignation of Bertie with the ongoing crisis of confidence and credibility of the Speaker of the House of Commons here in Britain.

    Malcolm McC says: “a lot of carping over a few thousand punt”. There’s a lot of British MPs who seem to feel the same way about their expenses!

    But surely the whole basis of governance comes down to trust in elected officials? Never mind Ireland’s reputation in the world. If Bertie is found to have misused his position with regard to undeclared donations that were a ‘political donation for personal use’:

    What else has he mis-used his Office for?

    Listening to him on in 2002 declaring that Health, Education and Infrastructure were his priorities, you can’t help but wonder if he turned a blind eye to a few thousand punt with regard to the influence of the Construction/Farming/Land Owner lobbies in Eire.

    Not that I’m suggesting he trousered the sums, just turned a blind eye whilst others perhaps did. Lawyers please note…..

  6. Malcolm McClure

    Andrew GM says “But surely the whole basis of governance comes down to trust in elected officials.” Not so. Andrew. The whole basis of governance is the production of results that the electorate approves of. Politics everywhere is a dirty business and money is an essential lubricant. However, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. That’s why the Fourth Estate is a Free Press. If the press fails to fulfill this role then we all pay the price, which is why we should all support newspapers that are truly independent and not afraid to dig the dirt. The constraint on politicians to keep their hands clean is the publication of their misdeeds, disgrace, banishment from the party, and if appropriate, a spell in jail. We have observed all of these processes happening under Bertie’s regime and also under Tony and Gord. Its called the Democratic Process.

  7. GOM

    I have commented on this in other blogs so am not getting into it here but I have to respond in a similar way to the almost incendiary comments Malcom made…..ah f**k it….. It is not good character to take responsibility for the things he said he did. Just being there as the tide rose is not enough to claim responsibility for the tide rising. The point that Bertie did anything can only be judged by the results – which by all accounts are going to be dismal in at least the short term-medium term. We will likely here one of two things he’ll say when all this breaks over the next year, “It was alright when I left it ” or “You should’ve left me there”.

    I did think that he finally acted like a leader by resigning and this did show some responsibility for his “muddled” finances, but I myopically thought that finally you could say….”What’s this, an Irish leader taking responsibility? Is this a seed example of the birth of accountability in this country?” …..until they let Bev back in. This using big news to open back doors for other distasteful acts is evidence that the slimey, parochial, hook the neck, put on smarmy grin and rub the greasy hands together, nature of politics in this country is alive and well. It disgusts me to the core that we can allow people who, in other countries would likely have criminal records serve as members of our parliament. Someone, someblog mentioned that Justice Mahon should get a go of all would-be politicians to give them a clean bill of health before they go near the Dail – probably a good idea.

    Roll on the wake up call….and what saddens me is that there will be a new wave of migration from this country, intelligent, highly educated, experienced people who are sickened by the way this country functions, or rather, dysfunctions. I am not far from that position myself (….and yes here is an opening for a “well go then” comment..).

  8. AndrewGMooney

    Malcom McC: I agree with you that a fearless press is an essential ingredient of Democracy. Having watched the scandal of the Saudi / British Aerospace ‘deals’ unfold: Bertie Ahern just seems like a clueless amateur in comparison.

    I’m just trying to establish if Bertie is a lone ‘sinner’ or part of a wider degeneracy within the Irish political class. From reading this blog it seems lots of Irish citizens tend to the latter view.

    If the Electorate take it as given that all Politicians are corrupt: Isn’t that giving the green light to all Citizens to become corrupt- cook the books- fiddle the expenses- not declare the Polish nanny’s wages and her plumber boyfriend in the attic, etc?

    A bit like Religion: You can put up with the Priest in the pulpit droning on about Sin until he gets arrested -drunk on the flesh rampage in the local brothel- then you think, “hang on, this Hell game is for thickos!”

    I remember my Dad ranting at me shortly before he died, saying I was ‘jealous’ of Ireland’s economic miracle. I tried to explain that I just didn’t understand what it was based on.

    Despite his expansive diatribes about The End of 800 Years of Oppression and The Troubles: In economic terms- I didn’t ‘get it’. I still don’t . He admired Bertie. He would be aghast at the latest news (although after Haughey I don’t know why!). Sad, but true.

    Maybe I’m not being clear:

    But surely there’s a ‘competitiveness’ league in honesty and financial probity? Would you rather open up for trade in Cairo, London, Dublin or Zurich? Or is that a trick question? LOL!

    GOM, like many others on this blog, seems to be offering a ‘counsel of despair’ about the Irish psyche: That the last decade has been some kind of wake but no one realised it because the drink was free? I don’t know. I’m just trying to figure out my childhood. And my Dad!

    Kind regards.

    PS: Miss you Dad.
    Love you always: Forget you never.

  9. GOM

    You illustrated my point very well with the example of “If the Electorate take it as given that all Politicians are corrupt: Isn’t that giving the green light to all Citizens to become corrupt- cook the books- fiddle the expenses- not declare the Polish nanny’s wages and her plumber boyfriend in the attic, etc? ”

    Leaders are the people who set the example for others and have a huge responsibility to maintain consideration of that responsibility. There are plenty of examples in other countries where press or public decry the mis-actions of their leaders and expect them to be accountable and take responsible action.

    As a culture, we brazen through the accountability bit as if somehow it does not apply to us….so not only do leader’s who should quit at a particular time maintain their position longer than they should, people accept it….so we are in a cultural dilemma as much as we are in an economic one, and the cultural one will have a longer and deeper influence because we cannot hope to be a flexible and dynamic open economy without dynamic thinking and action.

    For instance, in business (or politics), mediocrity should never be acceptable, and failure should not be treated as the end of someone’s career….failure teaches us lessons….if you are a director here of a company that fails (and statistics show many start-ups fail in their first six months), you are at risk of not being allowed to be a director of another company for 3 years – arcane thinking and adds to the “I’m not going there mentality” that prevents people going into business for themselves. Subtle but important to provide sound basis for entrepreneurial activity.

    The sense of desperation you may be getting from me and others, is that perhaps because our media have learned, over the past number of years to put a positivistic spin on the way news is reported (I saw today in the Irish Times a report stating that “finally the house prices are low enough for people to get on the property ladder”!! Massively irresponsible use of a public forum) and the only place you will get the balance is on blogs like this? Tom Kitt seems to think “Obsessive blogging” is having an effect – good!!

    One of these days I’ll write an optimistic, less desparate post, but that is when I can stop worrying so much about the future and live more in the present!
    I am an optimist and I believe in people -

  10. Philip


    I think your are seriously underestimating Berties vision when he pulled Bev back into the fold. You are looking at what may be the 13th leader of the country and possibly our interim Finance Minister.

    With the banking system going to hell in a basket and debts rising all over the place Bev’s experience in banking dealings and managing and deflecting huge personal debt may save us all!

  11. GOM

    I’ve got to believe that there is one other person in this “highly educated” population that we have that has this experience and who is not overshadowed by the implications of Bev’s wrongdoing – this is a person who failed to prove that she did not advise on tax evasion!

    As Andrew GM said, it is not just about experience in politics, the effectiveness of any political party is massively dependent on their reputational assets and their ability to convey that reputation to the electorate.

    Ultimately, what I believe is that there is no attention being paid to the cultural side of change, and in fact, it is being pushed back to the extent that the elected government at the moment don’t recognise it as an important element of the next few years of the country’s growth. That will be a serious lapse in policy I hope is exposed sooner rather than later.

  12. Ed

    GOM, we’re a young state in comparison with our European neighbours and we still carry a certain disregard for authority which stems from our colonial past. Electing dodgy characters is a sort of guarantee that the system will remain flexible and not overly authoritarian. This may be feel nice and comforting to the electorate, but there is a downside and this is inhibits our progress towards becoming a well organised society. Then again, do we want to live in an organised Switzerland or a flexible Ireland, the choice is ours and so far, the electorate definitely wants the latter. This is why the Irish do so well abroad – they’re so used creating order out of chaos at home, that when they encounter an organised society, they find it very easy to progress through the ranks.

    The stigma of failure is another hindrance to our progress, but then, if you can’t handle something like that there is little prospect of you succeeding as an entrepreneur.

  13. GOM

    I like characters – people who are quirky and I belive creativity flows from them much more easily than the “Steady Eddies” (BTW just coincidence your name is ED – not meant as a jab!). In fact, in some of my hiring decisions I force myself to hire quirky types and, to a person, they have all strongly contributed to the successes my company has had.

    I don’t believe I am being naive and I do know, to as reasonable an extent as any Irish person, the culture that exists here, I did grow up here and for the most part I accept it. But I accept it when a Garda tells me my tax is out of date “so get it seen to or “another” Garda may write you up”! kind of a way, i.e, in any other country you would be immediately ticketed and processed. And I do not want that side of our culture to go away because it is pragmatic and is also part of our easy going nature.

    But at some point, when, as a potential leader, you make a decision that that is what your aim is, you have to make decisions that put you beyond the scrutiny of the people being led and not believe that being in that position means you can take advantage. It may sound arrogant, but you do have to behave differently – that is the bit that I believe we have to get right.

    I suppose it is like trying to have your cake and eat it, but it shouldn’t be the “alleged” abusers of their positions in power that keep getting the cake! Also, for example, think about the young TDs in Mayo who are trying to get junior ministries now that Bev is back – their efforts are being undermined by the promotion of co-workers who have questionable pasts – that’s not a good message for young politicians.

    I am not sure about the last comment, i.e., is that the general “you” or specifically directed to me. The fear of failure is not the problem, its the barriers preventing you getting up again that are and it is a bad enough personal and professional feeling without having barriers created by legislation. In the US many of the people I know would not hire an entrepreneur, or VCs would not invest, if they had not failed, whereas here if you do, you are culturally (and in some cases legally) disincentivised to try again. I have been on one or two sinking ships that thankfully did not go under but some “colleagues” jumped ship because of the potential risks associated with that stigma – still, more money for me when it succeeds!!

  14. Philip

    Nice one Ed. Very much on the ball.

    I also think there will be a few more iterations of these cockups before we start thinking clearly to shake off the “stigma”. People here have too rosy eyed a view of being fickle and anti-authoritarian. I think this coming recession will be the cold water that’ll get people to pay attention. You see, there is really no where to run to now. The clever and middle classes are stuck here. This recession is global and it may get nasty out there. Running to the US or New Zealand or Australia etc. are not the options they used to be.

    An aspect of this “irish stigma” removal will be to jump start our native language again – it’s already starting to happen and pulling in the diaspora again may also be another angle.

    If I were to look at a model of what we should be after it’d be Dutch like. Aspects I would like to plagerise – All utterly fluent in a global language, own language, great traders, very independent, very liberal and a very strong sense of identity. I think the Irish ability to communicate with one another is hampered my out inability to speak english without it’s British and American influences. These influences are a mismatch for the reality of what needs communicating in Ireland and I think it may explain our lack of trust of authority or our ability to use it usefully. Maybe it’s genetic, I dunno. But I think our language would give us the “quite place” we need to think properly while shutting out the nonsense and misinformation emanating so much from the outside. Sin mar a thigim.

  15. Observer

    Thank You Bertie.

    Thank you for : Ruining the Health Service, allowing an uncontrolled immigration policy force hundreds of thousands of Irish out of their jobs in place of under-paid migrants who live with exploitation and prejudice.

    Giving up our claim to the North and allowing a cheat like Beverly Flynn back into the fold, letting us fall so much into debt and be the first victim of the recession about to hit our shores.

    Dumbing down the education system by under-employing and not expecting so many language support specialists needed to the thousands of migrant children who don’t understand english. Overcrowding the School classes, etc

  16. Paul

    “Tom, you’re wasting your time – Bertie and Bev. are the best that this country will ever elect – we know that we’re on a mission to nowhere. So chill out like a stereotypical Caribbean and just let it all go by.”

    You are right, this is Ireland, This is tribalism, it will not change in our lifetime if ever.

  17. Tom said:
    ” they are afraid to make any hard decision, take on any vested interest. Bough ever election with spending and promises”
    Thats it really, the rest is waffle..

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