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Whingeing voters deserved Bertie

I can’t get a job in Ireland. I own a house there that’s in negative equity. It is 20 miles down the road from where my family lives but it looks like I will have to spend lots of years working hundreds of miles away to service the debt.

That debt continues to accumulate as the Government recoups monies through weird and wonderful tax initiatives. First came the Non Principal Private Residence property tax, now the household tax…coming soon, water rates and who knows what after that.

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One thing is certain — we, the jilted generation, can expect more outgoings and higher taxes which means longer working days and shorter nights.

Welcome to the world post Fianna Fáil; post boom Ireland, post the abandon of planning regulations, dodgy deals and less than desirable politicians.

How did it get to this, I ask myself? How did Fianna Fáil and Bertie Ahern get into office?

Oh yeah, I voted them in. Sometimes I conveniently forget. But I didn’t just vote them in once. I did so on three different occasions. That makes me some way culpable for what has happened.

In 1997, I couldn’t wait to get to the polling station. I was 19 and Fianna Fáil were the coming force. I wanted to back the winning ticket. There were plenty like me.

So Bertie started his first term as Taoiseach after winning 39.3 per cent of the vote and around the same time Judge Mahon turned detective and started following a dodgy political paper trail.

You couldn’t say the trail was hot by 2002 but, old Mahon, he was getting warmer and we were becoming increasingly aware that something was rotten in the state of Ireland. We heard plenty of evidence that asked serious questions of Bertie’s political integrity and sure wasn’t he in good company, along with Ray Burke, Padraig Flynn, Liam Lawler et al?

We had heard the name Quarryvale back then, dodgy deals, brown envelopes, Tom Gilmartin, Frank Dunlop and a cast of murky stars. We knew there was something amiss with planning developments in Dublin but none of it counted for anything. The times they were a-booming and we voted to make them boomier. Would you believe it, we voted in even larger numbers in the 2002 General Election.

Bertie was back for a second term as Taoiseach having secured 41.5 per cent of the vote and an additional four seats. Fianna Fáil now had 81 TDs sitting in Dail Éireann. That left a lot of us sitting pretty.

Let the good times roll; we drank to that one, to three-day weekends; to stag trips in European capitals; to cheap money from the banks; to over-priced meals, to property portfolios that numbered three houses. But hey, anyone who was with Fianna Fáil could aspire to owning one more.

Bertie’s persona was very much the peacemaker back then. Despite everything his role in brokering the Good Friday Agreement should never be forgotten. We wanted peace and we wanted fast money too. He delivered both.

Charlie Haughey had already told us Bertie was devious and calculating, long before the Mahon tribunal belched out bite-sized chunks of confirmation. Still, we squared Bertie’s roguery away through material gain and a what-the-hell attitude. Things were getting done. Planning applications were getting passed. People were getting rich.

Lots of us jumped aboard the good ship Bertie and it didn’t matter so much that a clearly visible skull and crossbones was flying from the masthead because by 2007, Fianna Fáil returned their largest share of the vote from the three General Elections they contested since I first went to the polls in ’97.

Bertie was going to lead the country for an unprecedented third term. He won 41.6 per cent of the vote. Look it up! In light of what we knew, we decided he was the man to lead us to more riches.

That’s why I find it hard to understand the outrage which has greeted the conclusions of the Mahon Tribunal because no great mystery has been solved now Fianna Fáil has evaporated.

The big difference now is the money that made all these dodgy deals acceptable is gone and it won’t be seen again until God knows when.

But here’s the thing, Bertie is no more guilty now than he was back then. Ditto his cronies who the electorate voted in again and again.

Of course these political figureheads were very wrong in their actions. But we were wrong to return them to office because with rights comes responsibility and we compromised ours in the name of fortune.

There’s an old saying about a country getting the politicians it deserves and we deserved Bertie and all he stood for. We embraced a political mandate of peace and prosperity against a backdrop of corruption. That was what we wanted. That’s who we voted for.

As the old Fianna Fáil mantra goes: We are where we are — and we were the ones who put them there. Now we the electorate — or more specifically the 40 per cent plus who returned them — need to grow up and accept it.

Because that was what we wanted and that’s what we got.


Irish Post

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