Bertie is Back, from the Galway Tent, from being a Minister in Finance, and having No Bank Account, the Alleged Dig out, Cash only, Parties on Sean Dunnes, rented Yacht, to Sleeping in a Bag, in St Lukes, then the Crash, the Tribunals, won Money at the Races, Bertie a Fucking Legend, but Never Forget, Haughey, his Mentor, now a Honoury Degree, from DCU, for Years of Bluff, then Bang in 2009, Bertie Bye Bye, now Back.

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What's he up to?: What to make of the Bertie Ahern revival roadshow

What’s he up to?: What to make of the Bertie Ahern revival roadshow

 • Yesterday 20:40

THE BERTIE AHERN revival roadshow has been hard to miss. 

What’s he up to?: What to make of the Bertie Ahern revival roadshow© DCU

You’ve most likely been made aware of his new podcast in collaboration with Newstalk, or heard the news about him officially rejoining Fianna Fáil after his resignation from the party in 2012.

You may have heard soundbites from his appearance alongside Alistair Campbell at an Ibec event in the Mansion House, or his stint as a talking head on popular British current affairs podcast The News Agents

Today, you might have seen pictures of him donning a tasseled mortarboard as he received an honorary doctorate from DCU for his “part in forging the Good Friday Agreement” alongside Monica McWilliams.

“The island of Ireland is lucky to have a man of your patience, your persistence,” McWilliams said of her counterpart.

McWilliams, founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition, further described Bertie as having “the gift of humility” and a knack for “always being able to see the other’s perspective”. She told the audience that he had been her “rock” throughout the Good Friday Agreement negotiations. 

This is the kind of effusive praise that has followed him for the last few weeks. Introduced on The News Agents podcast for a discussion about the Windsor Framework, it was said that: “What he doesn’t know about negotiating these deals isn’t worth knowing.”

Business is booming for Bertie. But what exactly is he up to?

It might be that Ahern has simply reemerged as a sort of free-to-use primary source for the silver anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, but his current omnipresence has many wondering whether the Drumcondra man fancies a seven-year spell in Phoenix Park. 

Whether Ahern plans to run for president remains a mystery. The former Taoiseach has been coy when asked direct questions about the subject, though today he gave an answer that may offer some insight into his thinking. 

“That’s not on my agenda. If it ever arises, the first thing is to live that long. I’ve lost so many friends, even since Christmas,” he said. Ahern will be 73 in September and around 75 by the time of the next presidential election, five years older than Michael D Higgins was when he first took office in 2011.

Ahern also cited his role on the Council of State over the last 26 years as a reason to keep quiet. As a former Taoiseach, Ahern sits on the council which advises the president on the exercise of his powers, and said that it would be “disrespectful to our president” to talk about the presidency. Nevertheless, Ahern refuses to rule out a run. 

It is possible, of course, that Ahern has simply been missing the limelight. Ahern remains the longest-serving Taoiseach since Eamon De Valera, having served as Ireland’s head of government for just shy of 11 years.

A former foot soldier of Charlie Haughey’s, a finance minister at the outset of the Celtic Tiger and Taoiseach throughout its peak, a significant player in the Northern Ireland peace process, and a figure that was rarely out of the headlines, it is easy to speculate that Bertie might just miss the life that was once his day-to-day. 

It doesn’t seem too far-fetched to suggest he’s enjoying the adulation without the responsibility that comes with holding public office. The chance to hold forth, shake hands and rub shoulders with little danger of hearing the words “Mahon tribunal” – two words that would surely resurface with a vengeance should he announce any intention to represent the public once more. 

As it stands, Ahern is free to enjoy the kind of rose-tinted tributes usually reserved for those who are not planning a comeback. Even current Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has walked back his 2008 criticism of Ahern, wherein he said Ahern had “essentially given the John Gilligan defence — that he won the money on the horses” to the tribunal.

“This is a defence for drug dealers and pimps and not the kind of thing that should be tolerated from a former Taoiseach and member of this house,” Varadkar said in 2008.

Asked about the comments a few weeks ago, Varadkar said those remarks were made at a “particular point in time” and switched the focus to Ahern’s role in the Northern Ireland peace process. 

To a certain kind of mind, it looks like Bertie is campaigning for something, and at a pace that could not possibly kept up for the next two-and-a-half years. 

A protest staged during today’s ceremony by the Connolly Youth Movement, who labelled Ahern “the architect of the financial crisis which ruined the lives of so many young people”, gives some sense of the resistance that Ahern could face if he is to re-enter public life. 

Asked by The Journal about the protest, Ahern said: “I always like to see students doing their bit. I’m glad they had nothing better to do this morning, it was nice of them to come along and say hello to me.”

As unbothered as Ahern seemed by the protest, it could offer some insight into the purpose of the Bertie Ahern revival roadshow. He might not be campaigning for president, but he’s certainly campaigning for his own legacy. 

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