Willie O'Dea dismissive of 'hypothetical' Bertie return

Fianna Fáil frontbencher Willie O Dea has failed to say if he would welcome controversial former taoiseach Bertie Ahern back into the party, insisting he does not have time to talk about "hypothetical" situations, writes Political Correspondent Fiachra Ó Cionnaith.

The party's social protection spokesperson - who was in cabinet during Mr Ahern's time in power - made the comment after it emerged his former leader may be about to return to the party fold.

Speaking on RTE Radio's News at One programme after it emerged last night the Fianna Fáil Dublin Central branch has "unanimously" backed plans to ask Mr Ahern to return as a party member, Mr O Dea failed to clarify if he would welcome the move.

Side-stepping questions on the issue this afternoon, he said he will not deal with "hypothetical" situations and claimed to have only heard about the development moments before coming on air.

"Look, I mean, I just read this in the paper on the way over. I don't understand what all the hype is about.

"If he [Bertie Ahern] makes an application to return, we will deal with it in the same way as anyone else.

"I have so many problems on my desk, I don't see the point in discussing something that is entirely hypothetical," he said.

The comment came after Chris Wall, a close confidante of Mr Ahern, put down a motion at the Dublin Central branch meeting at the Skylon Hotel in the capital last night seeking the former taoiseach's return to the party fold.

The move was backed unanimously by 30 local members who were present, with branch chair Brian Mohan arguing Mr Ahern - who was forced from office in 2008 over series corruption allegations and was asked to leave the party entirely by current leader Micheal Martin after the Mahon report findings - "deserves a second chance".

Asked about the issue earlier today, Fine Gael Dublin Central TD and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said while he is aware of rumours Mr Ahern's potential return to Fianna Fáil - which must be ratified by party headquarters - may be planning to run in a future election, he does not believe it will happen.

"My understanding of where Fianna Fáil were going is that they were looking to put the past behind them. That doesn't seem to be happening.

"But I do think it's unlikely we're going to see Bertie Ahern handing out public leaflets any time soon," he said.

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