Professor Bertie.

While ‘Honorary Professor” Bertie Ahern spent Monday fulfilling his teaching duties in the Glen Royal Hotel, Maynooth, Donal Fallon shares his musings on his controversial role.

When Bertie Ahern remarked that his biggest regret following years of serving in government was his failure to obtain a proper soccer stadium for the capital, it struck a nerve with a great deal of the general public. With levels of emigration not seen since the hellish 1980s, coupled with rising unemployed and even dreaded home repossessions, to many ordinary tax payers it showed just how out of touch Ahern actually was with the general public.

Personally, my favourite Ahern moment has always been his praise for Ray Burke upon that mans retirement from politics. Nothing demonstrated quite so clearly that beneath the ‘average wurkin’ class republican fella from the northside’ routine was a man living on another planet. Burke would ultimately spend time in prison for tax evasion. Burke is also one of the men most responsible for the giveaway of billions of Euro worth of Irish natural resources.

“I always found him to be a proud honourable man, loyal and true, persevering and principled, caring and committed…” Ahern remarked. Committed, granted. Like Ahern, Burke was committed to his own pockets and little else.

Controversy: Ahern's appointment has many detractors.

It took the Irish Daily Mail to expose the rotten nature of the Ahern appointment at NUI Maynooth. When Bertie was made an ‘Honorary Adjunct Professor’ of the School of Business and Law, it dawned on many that Dr. Robert Galavan, behind the appointment, had himself attended the Fianna Fáil Ard Fhéis only weeks prior to Ahern’s appointment. An incredible co-incidence, that weeks after sitting at the City West Hotel, this man was proposing Ahern for a position that would do wonders for the reputation of a man who had emerged from the far side of the Celtic Tiger looking like a modern Charles Haughey with added baggage. Could Ahern not give these lecturers without the granting of an honorary position?

Dr Galavan told the Mail he thought the appointment was a “brilliant move” and that “I think it’s a fantastic idea.” He went on to note “It’s got nothing to do with that I’m a member of or what I’m not a member of” he noted, but two and two has always equalled four. The University came into much ridicule around the country, with The Phoenix magazine taking particular glee in the idea of ‘Professor Bertie’ hard at work in North Kildare. Maynooth students and staff didn’t find it all so funny of course, and hundreds of us marched on the office of one time President John Hughes. Undoubtedly that march and campaign, more than any USI walkabout the city centre, put Maynooth on the map as a university opposed to education cuts and tuition fees.

I was recently asked to provide opinion of Ahern to the Liveline radio show, and noted that while Ahern may have played a role in bringing the north of Ireland to peace, he undoubtedly brought the south to pieces. Ahern facilitated the unsustainable housing market which promoted the greed of a few over the needs of many. Ahern, like Burke, is in many ways responsible for the giveaway of Irish resources. Ahern oversaw years of corrupt and unaccountable governance in the south. The unfolding crisis, global in context of course but particularly hard hitting here owing to the gombeenism that prospered in this state, has the fingerprints of Ahern all over it.

Bertie Ahern had one of the worst attendance records in the last Dáil, moving aside from his role as a public representative to instead focus on the ‘dinner table circuit’ and charging individuals and conferences to hear him discuss the Northern Irish situation. Bertie however was still on hand to attend the Dáil when a crucial vote was needed by his party to introduce savage austerity cuts. The image of Ahern on crutches making his way into the Dáil to vote for education cuts is one that should not be forgotten.

While in Fagan’s Ahern may still be regarded as the ‘wurkin class boy done good’ in North Kildare we had the sense to connect him to austerity cuts, increased education fees, mass emigration and corruption. The problem in Irish politics is a rotten barrel rather than one or two bad apples of course, but Ahern personifies that barrel. Fianna Fáil may be gone, but their toxic legacy remains, and allowing people like Ahern to take ‘honorary positions’ makes a mockery of peoples suffering.

May all his visits to North Kildare be in secret.

-Donal Fallon


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