Dáil gets the picture as Bertie goes to the wall

BERTIE AHERN’s head finally hangs in the Dáil — but, typically, not in shame.

Painted when he was Mr Boom, the man who has since become Ireland’s Mr Bust stares into the middle distance against a backdrop of the most tranquil blue in a portrait hung in Leinster House to honour his premiership, the last reminder of the Teflon Taoiseach.

And what timing for the muted unveiling — as taxpayers recoil at Ahern’s €270,000 expense bill, Fianna Fáil all but disowns him as he brands his former lackeys “good for nothings”, and the verdict of the Mahon corruption probe looms large on the horizon.

In a way, the painting is the Celtic Tiger’s final legacy — leaving Ireland with its very own Picture of Dorian Gray in reverse.

Fans of Oscar Wilde’s novel will recall Dorian gets up to all sorts of shenanigans without a blemish befalling his appearance — all the resultant disfigurement goes onto a portrait he keeps in the attic.

Considered one of the last great gothic horror stories, the fable retold for modern times is turned on its head. Ahern’s portrait, completed in 2003 by Dublin artist James Hanley at a cost to the state of €10,000, contains not a hint of unpleasantness — rather, it is the public image of Bertie that has become marred beyond all recognition.

At the end of the novel, Dorian attempts an act of contrition in the hope of restoring his portrait to its original condition and salvaging his soul, but when he gazes at the portrait he sees there is no change — except that “in the eyes there was a look of cunning, and in the mouth the curved wrinkle of the hypocrite”.

But such a comparison would truly be fiction — Bertie has never offered any act of contrition for his central role in Ireland’s economic collapse and subsequent loss of national sovereignty.

Bertie’s portrait hangs in a noticeable gap along the wall from predecessor John Bruton on the left of the imposing Dáil staircase — perhaps a special enclave is being created for Ahern and his successor Brian Cowen, whose official portrait has yet to be commissioned.

Maybe they will have a separate rogue’s gallery of two — the Laurel and Hardy of the slump — but, as always with that duo, the joke will be on the taxpayer.

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