Distasteful as it was, I watched ‘Bertie’ the television documentary on the ex Taoiseach last night. Programmes like this are always useful in gaining insights into people like Ahern, insights that in the normal run of things are hidden by spin doctors and advisors.
For me, the most important insight from the programme was the confirmation that Ahern and his cronies deliberately set out to create a mafia in the Drumcondra area with the ultimate aim of making him Taoiseach. All Fianna Fail opposition in the area was ruthlessly wiped out. Ward bosses were established to ensure everybody knew their place and did as they were told.
It shouldn’t surprise us that Ahern and his cronies were successful; after all they were operating in a country that is itself run on mafia principles created by the corrupt Haughey in whose company Ahern learned his trade.
It is, however, always fascinating to observe journalists and other commentators ignore the fact that Ahern in nothing more than a street wise chancer who had a talent for exploiting the very low standards in Irish public life.
We are constantly told that we must wait for the Mahon Tribunal report before passing judgement on Ahern’s legacy. This, of course, is rubbish. The Carruth/sterling evidence tells us all we need to know about Ahern’s pedigree.
The facts are simple. Ahern and his secretary, Grainne Carruth, swore under oath that Ahern never dealt in sterling. Both gave their evidence in the (mistaken) belief that no bank records existed to disprove their claims.
When irrefutable evidence was produced Carruth broke down and admitted her lies. Ahern, having used every excuse in the book, was reduced to the last refuge of gangsters and drug dealers – ‘I won it on the gee gees m’lord’.
It was at this moment that Ahern should have lost all credibility; it was at this moment that he should have become a figure of contemptuous fun and an object of police investigation. Instead, he was elevated to the status of great statesman and will retain that status for so long as Ireland remains a dysfunctional society unable to face reality.
Even if Mahon finds that Ahern committed perjury it won’t matter. No action will ever be taken against him, it will make no difference to his onward march to sainthood and it is very likely that he will achieve his ultimate ambition – to be president of this banana republic when we celebrate one hundred years of inefficiency, incompetence and corruption. In that respect, he’s the perfect man for the job.