Bertie Ahern appears to be intent on joining the realms of the Manchester Martyrs while all around him take turns in defending or goading, depending on whether they view the ‘game’ as a home or away fixture. In this country, alongside the great pastime of begrudgery, sits another little god, that of hindsight. We have a great tendency to judge the past by the standards of the present. Doctorates in hindsight are plentiful.
There is no question of giving anyone the benefit of the doubt – the context of Bertie’s situation was that he and his family were travelling a very personal road of pain. Anyone who suffers pain at such a deep level can falter somewhat. Unfortunately for Bertie, the glasshouse brigade is out in force, its fully paid-up members ready to fire, hands heavy with stones, heads heavy with justification, yet, their hearts are heavy with guilt. Who has the right to become an overnight judge and jury except those who cannot face up to their own insecurities and inadequacies? These are the people who are so weighed down by guilt that their only ambition is to lead everyone down into the hole that they are in. In some warped way they actually defend dishonesty rather than shun it. Highlighting another’s weakness is not an act of a hero. It has nothing to do with the noble call of a gentleman. Rather it is the cry of the bewildered, the roar of the dispossessed, those who have lost their way and their claim on goodness. Truth does not demand a victim, it demands a hero. There are no heroes in this story yet. There is a victim, a man who, while walking down the highway of desolation, made decisions that now provide cannon fodder for soldiers of fortune. Perhaps they should be called soldiers of misfortune. Fortune smiles on the brave not on the shadows under which the limp minds of begrudgers find rest.
Bertie Ahern made mistakes. He made bad judgment calls. Welcome to the human race. We all know what it is like to make mistakes. No one has a monopoly on mistakes, just as no one has a monopoly on truth, least of all those who are lining up with the verbal salvos. This is not to claim that Bertie Ahern should be elevated on to a heavenly pantheon.
It is not for me or you to pass judgment on his personal life. His personal life and his marriage, regardless of who was at fault, is not our gig. It is for him and his family. What we have witnessed over the past week or so is pitiful, isolating a man and his actions when he was going through serious personal turmoil.
Bertie does himself no favours by his dithering and his non-sensical answers. It is amazing how he can address the UN or the EU at their highest levels in the most eloquent and forthright manner and then when it comes to speaking about other issues he stumbles and falters and makes a hash out of explanations. He often appears to contradict himself, as he has done in the past week, especially when he adopts ‘de north Dublinese speak’.
Regardless of his political faults and his failures, he is the longest-serving Taoiseach since Dev. Even for those who do not like him, his party or his style, he must be doing something that many people think is right. You cannot fool all of the people all of the time.
For the political vampires who smell blood, let it flow for the right reasons. Bertie Ahern made mistakes with cash donations, political or personal. How many of those who are lined up against him have not been compromised? Perhaps they never took cash they could not account for but, along the line, they might have compromised their integrity. The currency of integrity has more value than cash and when integrity is traded it is much more damaging.
For those who are intent on removing Bertie from office, remove him for the right reasons. Politically, he has been a failure on several fronts. The health service is a shambles. This is happening on Bertie Ahern’s watch. This makes him responsible. By all means, shout and holler at the betrayals perpetrated on people by a system that is stymied by its over-dependence on middle management. The injection of monies into the health service has found its way on to the bottom line of salaries enjoyed by pen-pushing, incompetent middle management. When we had matrons and lines of responsibility we had cleanliness and treatments. Today, we have money wasted on meetings and meetings.
The next time you visit the Mayo General Hospital in Castlebar stop at the front (sliding) doors and notice the layer of grime and dirt that is ingrained on the glass. If you want more, just walk into the lobby and look down. The brown-stained floor is a betrayal of all those who, in the past, sweated their way through hours of work to ensure that everything was in order. The work of the last generation of cleaners announced daily that ‘order is heaven’s first law’. Today it is the law of meetings and meetings about meetings.
Another example is the local area meetings of the county council, where you can have up to nine officials and three elected councillors. Put a ‘man hour’ valuation on that if you please. Naturally, there will have to be a series of meetings first to determine how acceptable the use of ‘man hours’ is as a term!
If Bertie is to go let him go because of Minister Dick Roche’s Critical Infrastructure Bill. This bill will deny the people their democratic right to object to projects that will impact negatively on their local environment. Let not Mr Roche think that because something is legal it is right. And where was the opposition (apart from Michael Ring) on this issue? They could be found sitting meekly at the feet of the Minister for the Environment feeding on the crumbs from his table. Ringo was the sole defender of democracy on this issue. Hopefully, his bravery will be remembered and rewarded when it is realised what he has done. He has been the voice crying in the wilderness.
Let Bertie call in Martin Cullen over the slobber attached to the Western Rail Corridor and his dancing delaying tactics, or let him go because of the legacy of Frank Fahey, with his Corrib gas debacle and the ‘Lost at Sea’ scheme. Let him call in Martin Cullen again (and again) over the National Roads Authority and their dilly-dallying over the N5 and the N26.
Bertie and Bev
There is a saying: “What looks large from a distance, close up ain’t never that big.” It could apply to Bertie this time around. It is time to get real about leadership and politics. We accept leaders because they have the capacity for frailty alongside their capacity for guiding us forward. Bertie must now know what Bev felt like. She was abandoned by her party. Let s/he who is without sin throw the first stone.