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Smear, fears and Irish Elections…or the curious case of the latest non-story about Bertie Ahern April 23, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Irish Election 2007, Irish Politics.

Let me make this very clear. I am not a member of Fianna Fáil, have never voted for them and have no intention of doing so in the future.

But..the current rash of stories regarding Bertie Ahern are symptomatic of a serious problem in contemporary Irish political discourse. The latest non-story? Harry McGee of the Examiner writes under the headline “Ahern’s father quizzed over Garda death” about how Con Ahern was questioned over the murder of Garda Richard Fallon in 1970.

1970. Thirty seven years have passed since the nihilistic murder of Garda Fallon by the tiny Republican paramilitary Saor Éire group, and the questioning of Con Ahern. Con Ahern was in his late 60s at that point and was questioned because he was a strong Republican with friendships with many involved in such activity. He was, as the article put’s it one of the ‘usual suspects’. There is no hint that he personally was involved or knew anything relating to the murder of Garda Fallon. We can disagree over whether he should have been questioned or not, but it happened thirty seven years ago!

Now, if that doesn’t mean that the headline was misleading, I’m not sure what is. But more to the point Bertie Ahern acknowledged that his father was questioned by the Gardai over just this issue in a 1998 biography.

And the contemporary resonance that gives the Examiner license apparently to drag anything up from any point in human history? That the recent round of ‘suitcase’ allegations in the Independent (that Ahern on his famous visit to Manchester brought a suitcase of cash with himself there) originated, so it is said from the brother of Garda Fallon who was the Garda who allegedly mentioned the suitcase.

It’s funny isn’t it? Just as the temperature goes up, both physically and politically, along comes another ‘rumour. Surely no coincidence here.

Well, Ahern has said “there is no truth to claims published”. I’ve read on Politics.ie the idea that he must sue otherwise we must assume that there is something in the allegations. I don’t think so, I really don’t. That logic opens the floodgates to a round of perpetual litigation for every and any Taoiseach, and as we know from Irish politics, what comes around goes around.

I find it telling that the Irish Times coverage of it, unlike the Independent, was tucked away on an inside page, well out of harms way. Sure they put two reporters on it, but it was remarkably arms length in it’s observations. It’s when it’s on the front page, with other articles on pages two, three and four that I’d find it more convincing. And even the coverage in the Independent was interesting in it’s emphasis. Signalling “the start of the Election campaign” there was a sense of punches pulled, as if this is just the sort of knockabout stuff we should all expect in this circumstance, and for the next couple of months.

For those of us who’ve been around long enough to know the slow, steady and deathly dull list of rumours which have swilled back and forth over the years regarding the ubiquity of Fianna Fáil malfeasance this has a gloomy predictability. It’s like, yes, I know they’re centre right opportunists but tell me guys, what are your crowd of centre right opportunist going to do to make things better?

This sort of thing doesn’t answer that question. All it does is make me wonder why it’s not being answered, and why time and energy is being expended on ‘allegations’ and whipping up a sense of self-righteousness on the part of our other centre-right party while at the same time strenuously denying that the ‘allegations’ have anything to do with them.

Whatever our political affiliation, shouldn’t it be better than this? Even a little bit better?


1. Ed Hayes - April 25, 2007

Like yourself I have no time for FF, the currupt, property developing, cheating, party of hypocriscy. HOWEVER there is a strong sense of social snobbery and a real contempt ‘how do these bloody people keep voting for them’ in how much of the media cover FF; see Bruce Arnold, the Cruiser etc. The left for its part just has to do better. FF arn’t in power because the Irish people are stupid but because they hit on a winning populist formula that can incorporate working class and middle class support a long time ago. All this shite just plays into their hands.


2. WorldbyStorm - April 25, 2007

That’s remarkably like my own feelings on it. That sense of snobbery is something I find unpleasant and also utterly apolitical. And to tbh I’ve noticed on P.ie and elsewhere a hectoring and almost hysterical aspect to some FG posters, who I’ve met in person and found reasonable enough, which strikes me as incredibly unappealing. Labour in it’s own way seems to embody some of that, but with a patina of ideological superiority which is undeserved in the contemporary prevailing political context (or indeed their history).


3. Ed Hayes - April 26, 2007

With Labour insiders I think there is a sense that Pat, Liz, Joan etc are quite obviously intellectual giants while Bertie can only be a somewhat crafty fool; he even talks funny! A justified dislike of FF’s corruption morphs into a kind of distaste for the ‘plain people of Ireland’ who instead of rising up against this corruption seem to excuse it. Labour doesn’t bother wondering why it has never managed to become a substantial force. As for FG, given their history and I don’t just mean the Blueshirts, their sense of themselves as a fine honest upstanding bunch might not withstand a serious examination.


4. WorldbyStorm - April 26, 2007

A small anecdote that dovetails with what you’re saying Ed. I was in Kildare House back during Charlie McCreevy’s first budget speech at a DL meeting. The sneers about his accent and ‘how could he be Minister of Finance sounding like that?’ made me wonder just what class was DL meant to be defending? Sure, attack McCreevy about his ideology which was typically right-opportunist and I’m right there, but attack him over his accent?

Absurd and telling. And this was DL.

Snobbery dressed up as ideology is as unappealing as the more usual variants.

Agree with you re FG also.


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