The First Time I Met Bertie Ahern
The first time I met Bertie Ahern, I knew I was in the presence of a political genius. Whatever the situation, however indefensible his position, he has a disarming ability to turn it into him and you against the rest of the world. >>>
There is a Better Way
In 1987, Fianna Fáil had wrested power from Fine Gael and Labour, largely by opposing the coalition’s health cuts. Their posters were clear – Health Cuts Hurt the Poor, the Sick and the Handicapped. There is a Better Way.
There was indeed a better way, but it was a better way to hurt the poor, the sick and the handicapped. Once they had their feet under the cabinet table, Fianna Fáil began to implement more severe health cuts than their predecessors.
Your Local Man
Two years later, there was another general election. By then I had moved into Bertie’s constuency, and his canvassers came calling. ‘Don’t forget about Bertie, now will you, he’s your local man’ was their sophisticated opening gambit.
‘What about the health cuts?’ I asked. ‘Ah, no, there’s no health cuts,’ they replied. Not, mind you, that the health cuts were not as bad as I may have thought them to be, but that there were none of them.
‘None?’ I asked, somewhat incredulously. ‘None,’ one of them reassured me. ‘Sure I was in hospital there myself last month and there was no bother at all.’
Bomber Jacket Bertie
I was about to question him further when I saw Bertie himself, clad in bomber jacket and casual trousers, striding purposefully along the footpath. I crossed the road to meet him.
‘Bertie,’ I said. ‘Can I ask you a question?’
‘Sure,’ he replied. ‘Fire away.’
‘Well, your canvassers are telling people that there are no health cuts. What’s the story with that?’
‘Ah, no, what they’re saying is that we’re reducing unnecessary expenditure on the bureaucratic end to free up more resources for the front-line services where you and I will benefit if, God forbid, we have to make use of them.’
‘Well, now, in fairness,’ I interjected. ‘They’re not actually saying that. They’re telling people that there are no health cuts.’
God Love Them
Bertie paused and looked directly into my eyes, as if sizing up what the best response to this would be. He then leaned forward, put his arm around my shoulder, and spoke to me as if I was his closest friend.
Talking about his own canvassers misleading voters on one of the biggest issues of the election, he quietly reassured me that: ‘Ah sure, God love them, they’re not familiar with the details.’
As he started to walk away while simultaneously shaking my hand, he concluded the encounter with ‘But listen, thanks for that. I appreciate it.’ And then, like the opposite of the shopkeeper in Mr Benn, as if by magic, he disappeared.
Bertie Ahern. A master in action. Whatever the situation, it’s him and you against the rest of the world.
Entry filed under: Politics.