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Taoiseach says he is open to return of disgraced, ousted predecessor Bertie Ahern to Fianna Fáil party

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said he is open to allowing former leader and Taoiseach Bertie Ahern back into the party he leads.

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern resigned from Fianna Fail in 2012 after the Mahon Tribunal. He made the move before Mr Martin sought to expel him from the party.

Ten years ago Mr Martin formally moved to expel Mr Ahern from the party after he was heavily criticised for financial improprieties following a critical report by the Mahon Tribunal of inquiry into corrupt payments to politicians.

But the former Taoiseach quit before he could be expelled.

This week Mr Martin said he has been engaging with the former Taoiseach particularly about issues around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Then Taoiseach Ahern and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were instrumental in negotiating the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

At a Fianna Fáil parliamentary party this week it was proposed that to mark next year’s 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement that Mr Ahern be readmitted to the party.

Speaking in Tallaght on Thursday where Mr Martin was opening a new branch of Penney’s (Primark in the UK), the Taoiseach said: “In terms of Bertie Ahern, I have been engaging with Bertie Ahern actually over the last year and a bit, since the rows on the protocol, and he’s very involved in Northern Ireland issues, he maintains contacts with different groups.

“From my perspective, like that level of consultation will continue because I think he has invaluable insights to all of that.”

Mr Martin said Mr Ahern has experience wof conciliating with a range of groups in Northern Ireland.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin and Fianna Fail TD John Lahart at the opening of Penney’s in Tallaght. Mr Martin and Mr Lahart both indicated their acceptance of Bertie Ahern back into the party (Cate McCurry/PA)

“He has reached out to communities in the north and is sort of picking up perspectives in different communities and that’s been valuable in terms of engaging and discussions on that,” the Fianna Fail leader added.

“No one can take from the contribution he made to peace in Ireland and to the peace process, so the fullness of time certainly we will give him that consideration.

“It’s very relaxed when we meet.”

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“As far as I am concerned, it’s ten years on, I’m conscious of the contribution he has made to peace in the country.

“He made a very significant contribution.

“There’s no immediate decisions yet. He has his views on these things as well.

“We’ve had good conversations, we meet at informal occasions, at matches and that.

“His commitment is to making sure that we can try and resolve the current issues around the protocol are very sincere and heartfelt, and that’s something we can take value from.

“I’m experienced in Northern Ireland as well. I’ve been a Minister of Foreign Affairs.

“People in Northern Ireland know I am very familiar with the issues on all sides of all parties and the fact that would have been a member of the government as part of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement at the time.

“I’ve invested a lot of my political life in the north, but I do think it’s always important, no one has total expertise in any subject matter, but I’m conscious he has been working community groups and working with people in terms of understanding current threads as well.

“That’s useful to get that.”

Fianna Fail TD for Dublin South West John Lahart said he supported Mr Ahern’s readmission to the party and rehabilitation.  return.

“I think the discussion was specifically in the context of the value of experience that he brings, particularly in the context of the 25th year of the Good Friday Agreement next year – that’s the story element of this.”

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