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Secret diaries reveal the real Bertie

Resource type: News

Irish Independent | [ View Original Source (opens in new window) ]

A WORKAHOLIC, devout Catholic, sports obsessive who seldom went in front of the cameras without his make-up on. This is just part of the picture painted by the, until now, secret diaries of Bertie Ahern.

The former Taoiseach‘s official appointments diaries, released for the first time to the Irish Independent, gave a fascinating insight into the man who led the country for more than a decade.

The documents revealed where Mr Ahern was, what he was doing, and who he was meeting, on each day for his final five years in power.

As debates rage over his legacy, many of the entries reinforce his image as a workhorse who always had several irons in the fire at any one time.

He was almost constantly on the go, and attended up to 40 official engagements in a week and many more unofficial ones.

It was not unusual for him to deal with affairs of state, constituency matters and party political business all in the one afternoon.

Less well known is the time spent on hair and make-up.

Mr Ahern was rarely photographed or filmed without first being visited by one of two personal groomers, Marie McLoughlin or Olive Munn.

His deep religious faith was very clear from the diaries, and he frequently set aside time to attend mass and novenas.

One lesser-known engagement was when an Italian cardinal visited his St Luke’s base in Drumcondra, Dublin, to confer him with a Catholic knighthood.

The late Cardinal Mario Francesco Pompedda bestowed the Knight Grand Cross of Merit with Gold Star on Mr Ahern in a private visit in May 2004. Cardinal Desmond Connell was also present.

Mr Ahern’s spokesman told the Irish Independent the award was for his contribution to peace and reconciliation in the North and his achievements during Ireland’s EU presidency.

The following year he had a private audience in Rome with the newly appointed Pope Benedict.

He also had an open-door policy for Catholic leaders in Ireland, receiving calls and visits from Cardinal Sean Brady, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Papal Nuncio Guiseppe Leanza and Fr Sean Healy of the Conference of Religious of Ireland.

At the same time, Mr Ahern also made plenty of time for organisations of different faiths.

Meeting with the European Jewish Congress or the Israeli Federation for Labour would be followed soon afterwards with visits or dinners with the Islamic community in Dublin.

Phone calls were exchanged with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr Ahern also had meetings with Quakers and a leading member of the Greek Orthodox Church.


While Fianna Fail‘s links with builders and developers are well documented, Mr Ahern rarely met them as part of his official diary.

However, one meeting does stand out. He met a high-powered group including developers Michael O’Flynn, Sean Mulryan and Bernard McNamara at Leinster House in July 2004.

Mr Ahern’s spokesman said the purpose was to try to persuade developers to build more social and affordable housing.

A visit was also paid to Howard Holdings in Cork during 2005. The development company’s chief executive, Greg Coughlan, was the subject of a High Court arrest warrant last month after failing to obey court orders in connection with €28m in unpaid property loans.

There was not much in the way of official contact with bankers, but Bank of Ireland chief executive Brian Goggin and Fred Goodwin of the Royal Bank of Scotland were among the few who had discussions with Mr Ahern.

Calls and meetings were also had with Microsoft supremo Bill Gates, billionaire philanthropist Chuck Feeney, Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary and Goldman Sachs International chairman Peter Sutherland. There were also meetings with representatives of Intel, Hewlett Packard and Dell.

During Ireland’s EU presidency in 2004, much of his time was spent on the phone with other leaders as he sought to construct a deal on the European Constitution.

But his mind was never too far from home, with the diary being peppered with references to sporting occasions, particularly matches involving the Dublin football team and Manchester United.

Even if he was not attending the games, he was given a reminder of the time they were on so he could try to catch them on television.

– Shane Phelan

Original Source.

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