Tánaiste Micheál Martin has said that Bertie Ahern is welcome back in Fianna Fáil because the party does not "give life sentences" to people.
Mr Martin also said he no longer counts to ten while dealing with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
He said when he made this comment previously in an interview with the, he was referring to one issue during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Tánaiste was speaking during an interview in New York last week and said Mr Ahern rejoining his local party organisation in Dublin Central is not about whether it’s good or not for Fianna Fáil.
“We don't give life sentences generally in life to people,” he said.
“He’s always been involved locally in Drumcondra and he’s basically applied to join his local branch. Now are we really saying that the person shouldn’t be allowed to join a local branch of a party? I don't think he has any ambitions politically.”
Mr Ahern resigned from the party in 2012 before Mr Martin moved to expel him following the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report.
Mr Martin said it is "possible" that Mr Ahern has simply played up speculation linking him to the presidency, but he thinks the aim of rejoining was more in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement next month.
He said Mr Ahern was “critical” to the agreement and said “we can’t underestimate that.”
He said during his public life there has been an established protocol not to speculate on future presidencies out of respect to the current president and said he finds in recent times that protocol is being “eroded.”
Meanwhile, Mr Martin said his relationship with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has changed in the last two and a half years while in government, adding “he’s an easy enough guy to talk to.”
He said it has been a “professional relationship” and he is not “counting to ten” every week, referring to comments he previously made.
“We have the capacity to contact each other if there are issues that emerge and we get on quite well,” he said, also referring to Green Party leader Eamon Ryan.
When asked how his leadership style differs to Mr Varadkar, Mr Martin said he would prefer others to judge that adding “we are different people, you know and he puts a lot of work into it and he’s meticulous too.”
The Tánaiste said he thinks it is “politically immature” of politicians to be speculating when they believe the next General Election could be.
It comes after thereported some Government ministers are already discussing the possibility of an early election, with sources saying it could be as early as November this year.
Mr Martin said he is “impatient” with “some people strategizing” and thinks it is “silly and foolish” given he believes that “it puts the game of politics ahead of the needs of the people.”
He said that he thinks the public would be “very angry if an election was sprung on them.”
“The public are not fools and the public are not going to tolerate parties working in their own electoral self interest, that’s just my own view.”