Problems caused by success, says Bertie to party faithful

For nearly an hour yesterday afternoon Noel Dempsey paced up and down the garden of the Sligo Park hotel with a mobile glued to his ear.

Earlier he had told a press conference he would continue consulting with victims groups; some wiseacre reckoned he was phoning every one of the 1,730 who have made allegations. The annual Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting is like a last dress rehearsal for the Árd Fheis.

Sadly, the audience consists only of a handful of protesters, a couple of handlers, and the media The gardaí easily outnumbered the protesters. until a bus-load of Aer Rianta workers turned up However, the ambush party were headed off at the pass; Transport Minister Michael Brennan agreed to meet them for impromptu talks.

The mood of the two-day meeting was meant to be upbeat. No better man to convey that than Bertie Ahern. He arrived in the press room, a grin creasing his face. He recalled the time so long ago he couldn't remember the sobriquet he was called the Telethon, oops, the Teflon Taoiseach. But he confirmed that in life, as in frying pans, 'non-stickability' does not last forever. Mr Ahern insisted Ireland's problems were the problems of success. And as if to prove he was no less affected than the average man he revealed he walks to St Luke's [his constituency office] in Drumcondra from his home. Afterwards Noel Dempsey gave a confident performance, brushing aside any blame being attributed to the Government for the Laffoy quagmire. But if he got an easy ride, Ned O'Keeffe and John McGuinness were singled out and named by Bertie, as he rounded on backbench dissent in recent weeks during his main address to the party faithful. Unity was the message; cue loud applause from almost the entire room. And as yesterday drew to a close, all and sundry headed for the bar where the real politics began.

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