Reynolds tells details of Ahern ‘set-up’

ALBERT Reynolds has accused Bertie Ahern of shafting him in the 1997 presidential race.

Mr Reynolds says Mr Ahern asked him to run, only to later secretly throw his support behind Mary McAleese, who went on to win both the Fianna Fáil nomination and election to the Áras.

It has long been known that Mr Reynolds believed he was set up by Mr Ahern. He has now documented his version of events in his memoir, to be published on Thursday. In it, Mr Reynolds tells how Mr Ahern, who had succeeded him as Fianna Fáil leader, asked him in early 1997 to consider running.

While Mr Reynolds found the prospect “tempting”, his family was not keen.

“Bertie, however, was very persistent and persuasive,” Mr Reynolds writes.

In June, Fianna Fáil was returned to power at the general election. Mr Ahern became Taoiseach and promptly endorsed Mr Reynolds for the presidency. But other candidates were also seeking the Fianna Fáil nomination, including Ms McAleese.

“I was advised by a number of friends that I should pull out as I was being set up. I could not believe this was true,” Mr Reynolds says.

On the morning of the vote, Mr Reynolds says Mr Ahern rang and made clear there would be no need to give a speech at the meeting. “Imagine my shock, then, when at that very meeting the chairman, Rory O’Hanlon, announced that the candidates would each have five minutes in which to speak.”

Ms McAleese was well prepared and delivered a confident speech, whereas Mr Reynolds and another candidate, Michael O’Kennedy, were “completely thrown” and forced to speak off the cuff.

“I believed we had both been set up,” Mr Reynolds says. “I was sure that Bertie’s pretence of remaining neutral was just that, a pretence.”

* The memoir, entitled Albert Reynolds: My Autobiography, is published by Transworld Ireland.


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