Senior Fianna Fáil members including party leader Micheál Martin have refused to comment on revelations Bertie Ahern’s former branch has asked the divisive ex-taoiseach to rejoin the organisation.
A spokesperson for Mr Martin, the party itself, and senior frontbenchers Michael McGrath and Barry Cowen either failed to respond or declined to comment on the issue yesterday as opposition parties hit out at the potential move.
On Tuesday night, the Dublin Central branch of Fianna Fáil voted “unanimously” to formally ask Mr Ahern to return as a member.
The “unanimous” decision to ask Mr Ahern — who was forced out by Mr Martin after the Mahon tribunal findings — to return was made by 30 local members.
Speaking to the Irish Examiner yesterday Dublin Central branch chairman Brian Mohan said while the former taoiseach is “controversial in some people’s eyes” he should return as he “deserves a second chance”.
Mr Mohan said the decision to ask Mr Ahern to become a Fianna Fáil member again was because the party needs strategic help on how to win back seats in the constituency, but admitted when asked that no other former TD has been asked to become involved again.
“We’ve tried everything [to win back seats], we were just thinking this is the only option left,” he said, before later telling RTÉ Radio the local party needs to “tap into” previous knowledge.
“In regards to the tribunal findings I know he was deeply disgusted with the findings, but this [membership request] is purely from a political point of view,” he said.
As a result of the branch decision, Mr Mohan “notified” Fianna Fáil headquarters yesterday to inform them of what happened, in addition to writing to Mr Ahern — who was due to fly back into Ireland from a conflict management issue abroad last night — to ask him to return.
The move has caused significant concern among Fianna Fáil members who are worried about the impact of Mr Ahern’s potential return to politics.
However, the party has so far refused to comment on the issue as no membership request from Mr Ahern has been received — with a spokesperson for Mr Martin failing to respond, while a party spokesperson and senior frontbenchers Michael McGrath and Barry Cowen declined to comment.
Mr Martin’s silence has gained particular attention, as he said in a statement after the Mahon Tribunal findings that Mr Ahern was involved in “conduct unbecoming” of a party member and should be expelled.
Asked about the revelations in his own constituency yesterday, Dublin Central Fine Gael TD and Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe took aim at Fianna Fáil, saying: “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.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved