Bertie Ahern will stand down as Taoiseach on May 6th 2008.
Of the past four Taoisigh, three have resigned with unanswered questions to say the least. That is not good for Ireland.
Bertie did wonderful things for this country; the Good Friday agreement may well not have happened without him (his dedication was phenomenal considering that his mother died on the run up to the signing of the agreement); his work on social partnership; his successful pragmatic approach to government of consensus; his work on the EU treaty.
But there is no doubt that the man's credibility is seriously damaged. His inability to clearly explain his finances when he was Minister for Finance and his ongoing obstruction of the Mahon tribunal left many questions for many people.
I don't believe that he was corrupt in the way that Haughey was (Mahon's findings might change my mind though) but here are some undisputable facts:
- He accepted financial contributions (or "dig-outs" as he calls them) from businessmen for his personal use.
- He brought a High-Court challenge against the Mahon tribunal to limit its inquiries into his Dáil statements.
Why do I pick out these two facts? Because here are two important Dáil statements made by Bertie Ahern:
- "Financial contributions to politicians should be made for strictly political purposes, be clearly accounted for and given with no other motive than the good government of this country and support for the democratic system as a whole." May 28th, 1998.
- "It is also unacceptable that in the case of Mr Haughey full co-operation was withheld from the tribunal, forcing it to undertake lengthy, painstaking and costly research to establish facts, which could have been established almost at once with his full co-operation. It is unacceptable that in a manner hitherto concealed from the public a taoiseach should be personally supported to the tune of £1.3 million." September 10th, 1997.
Bertie needed to go.