Fianna Fáil faithful want Bertie back

Fianna Fáil faithful want Bertie back

The Taoiseach said he would no issue with Bertie Ahern returning to the party. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/

There are strong calls from grassroots Fianna Fáil members for Bertie Ahern to return to the party as members believe his personality is needed along with recognising what he has achieved for the country.

As Taoiseach Micheál Martin continues to battle questions about the party's identity crisis, long-term Fianna Fáil members believe it’s time for a change.

Mr Ahern resigned from the party in 2012 before Mr Martin moved to expel him following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report.

However, Mr Martin mentioned his predecessor by name in his opening address on Friday night.

Athlone councillor Aengus O’Rourke, son of former minister Mary O’Rourke, said he would have Mr Ahern “back anytime”.

“I certainly would have no issue with him returning to the party. In fact, I copped some criticism several years ago during Brexit when I asked him to do a presentation for us in Fianna Fáil in Athlone. It was the first invite back into the party. Bertie jumped at it.” 

I would have him anytime. It is a bit of a storm in a tea cup. Bertie would be welcome anytime

John Morgan from Ballsbridge in Dublin said it became “wishy-washy” when the party joined Fine Gael in the previous confidence and supply agreement and the current coalition government has further diluted what Fianna Fáil stands for.

“I think we should get Bertie back into the party as quickly as possible and I’d love to see him back.” 

Mr Morgan's wife, Anna, said Mr Ahern should come back into the fold as the party needs that “down-to-earth personality in the party to bring us back to our roots.” 

Both agreed that Micheál Martin successfully led the country through Covid-19 and the impact of the war in Ukraine, but now it was time for change.

However, they are not sure who to turn to next to lead the party but that change was needed after Christmas.

On whether the party is fighting an identity crisis, Peter O’Brien from Sandycove, Dublin,  said he thinks “it’s more of a memory issue”. He said Fianna Fáil needs to remind the public of what the party has achieved and believes a “whole generation has forgotten what Fianna Fáil has done for the country.” 

Bertie Ahern resigned from the party in 2012 before Micheál Martin moved to expel him following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/
Bertie Ahern resigned from the party in 2012 before Micheál Martin moved to expel him following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report. Picture: Eamonn Farrell/

To help this issue, he said Bertie Ahern returning to the party would help outline to the electorate what he and the party has done for the country.

“Other parties have developed and come into the picture and it’s about time Fianna Fáil put their case forward a little stronger.

“Personally, I would be more centre-left. That’s where I think Fianna Fáil’s real home is,” he added.

On the issue of the party’s identity, Mr O’Rourke said that is not the issue dominating people’s thinking when they call to his office.

“They are not asking me what my identity is or my party’s identity is. I think as a party as we head into the next general election, maybe clarity was needed around that,” he said.

“I think mistakes were made at the last general election and perhaps the one before. Confidence and supply was designed to be a temporary arrangement but it became a medium-term thing, and that did cause us problems,” he said.

Tom Cahill, who had previously been on the national executive, said a real issue up to now has been the lack of proper communication with grassroots members and the public.

However, he said in recent times a real effort has been made to improve messaging, communications and the party's use of social media.

However, Paddy Ryan from Tipperary said if the party doesn't come up with a realistic plan on housing before the next election, Fianna Fáil will be returned as the third largest party in the country.

"When I was young fella canvasing, you went into a house and you met old people, they wouldn't change from Fianna Fáil no matter what, because Fianna Fáil got them the house. If we came back to sorting out housing, that would make a huge difference to Fianna Fáil."

During a discussion on the party's new aims and objectives, senator Lisa Chambers said: "We don't have an identity crisis, we know exactly who we are, where we've come from, why we're here in this room."

She added: "We are the party that has always supported and promoted equality of access to education and education is the great leveller. And it is the one that provides opportunities for everyone to reach their full potential for every child to realise their full potential. And that is the reason why I'm a proud member of Fianna Fáil."

A right to housing, Irish unity and an emphasis on education are among a new list of core aims and objectives that the party adopted at its ard fheis.

A special commission headed by Kildare TD James Lawless was tasked with reviewing how the party must change if it is to modernise and increase support. The list of core aims was unanimously adopted by members attending the event in Dublin's RDS.

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