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From The Socialist newspaper, 9 April 2008

Ireland: "The most cunning and devious of them all" finally goes

AFTER 11 years as Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Bertie Ahern has announced his resignation for 6 May this year. Even in resignation, he lived up to his description by his mentor, the disgraced ex-Taoiseach, Charles Haughey as "the most cunning and devious of them all". He had barely announced his resignation, before the Fianna Fail (FF) machine was spinning furiously. Wave after wave of ministers and TDs (MPs) were trotted out to declare that this was a "man of the people" hounded out of office by a malicious media!

Paul Murphy, Dublin

Ahern's resignation had become inevitable. The sleaze and allegations of corruption surrounding him had reached a point where they could no longer be credibly denied. His resignation is the result of mounting evidence in the Mahon tribunal (one of many tribunals set up to investigate corruption in planning matters) of the numerous large payments he received from various businessmen.

The known transactions between 1988 and 1997, including when he was Minister of Finance, amount to almost 900,000 in today's terms.

Ahern's approach has been to attempt to confuse the issue and undermine the tribunal, claiming that he received a relatively small amount of money from friends as a "dig out" after his marriage break up. He has tried to explain away the cash donations, by the incredible claim that he didn't have a personal bank account while he was Minister for Finance!

However, the evidence that has emerged illustrates the large number of donations he received and suggests that he was connected to a number of different accounts. The most damaging recent revelation was the evidence of his former secretary, Grainne Carruth, that she had lodged sterling for Ahern amounting to 15,500. This completely contradicts his attempt to explain this money as ministerial wages. This bald contradiction of Ahern's evidence was a body blow to his credibility.

The latest opinion polls indicated that this was beginning to impact on Fianna Fail's support, dropping 2%. What the Minister for Health described as "public disquiet" had developed to such a stage that both Fianna Fail's new coalition partners, the Greens and the Progressive Democrats, as well as members of FF, were beginning to feel uneasy about the potential for damaging fallout.

Real legacy

With Ahern set to return to the tribunal later in May to answer this evidence and the vital Lisbon treaty referendum now likely to be held in early June, he decided to bow out before more damage was inflicted on the government and he was pushed out.

He may hope that with his resignation in train, there will be less focus on the Mahon tribunal when he returns on 20 May. He is unlikely to be so fortunate, and will be unable to untangle the web of contradiction and confusion he has spun about these various large donations. In fact, further damaging revelations are quite possible.

Some of the laudatory comments about Ahern's eleven years in office are sickening. He is being credited in many quarters with single-handedly bringing about the 'peace process' in Northern Ireland, and with developing the 'Celtic Tiger' economic upswing, all through his supposedly brilliant negotiation and people skills.

The real legacy of Ahern and his relationship with the developers is faced by working people on a daily basis. His government has pursued a nakedly pro-big business agenda, which has resulted in huge profits for a select few, and massive problems for working-class communities.

His developer and speculator friends have made millions from new housing developments, yet the owners will pay the price for this speculation in huge mortgages around their necks for the next 35 or 40 years. They also face huge infrastructural and traffic problems as a result of planning to benefit developers rather than to meet the needs of ordinary people.

The health crisis is similarly a direct result of these pro-business policies. Ahern's government has consciously underfunded and undermined the public health service in order to push people into the arms of profiteers, many of whom are the same developers that have benefited from planning decisions.

Fianna Fail is hoping now for a "smooth transition" of power to the current Tanaiste (Deputy Prime Minister), Brian Cowen, who will take over as Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fail. However, Cowen will not have the backdrop of a booming economy to ease his passage. Instead, he will preside over an economy that is facing serious difficulties, and can quickly face serious opposition from ordinary people.

Ahern's hasty departure anticipates the significant changes that are underway in Irish society. The "Celtic Tiger" is dead, with uncertainty about the future now facing working-class people.

In that context, the real legacy of Ahern - the squandering of the wealth created by workers during the boom, inadequate investment in public services and a planning process facilitating the developers and speculators - will come back to haunt the establishment.

Article on Lisbon Treaty: see

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