While we wait for the election results to trickle in, let us pause awhile to pay tribute to our Zelig-like Taoiseach, Bartholomew Ahern, an Irishman who is unique, to the point where the national broadcaster refers to him simply by his diminutive first name. We don’t often realise what a singular character Bertie is.
Consider this: The Irish electorate holds its political class in well-deserved contempt. (Although one is tempted by Sir Garret’s observation that, when you think of the Irish electorate, the political class doesn’t look quite so appalling.) Yet, whatever the anti-politician mood, it never seems to stretch to Bertie. You see, Bertie isn’t really a politician, he’s more like a cowboy plumber.
The nurses have been waging a courageous and militant campaign, rudely intruding on the virtual election wherein the media insist we are all obsessed with stamp duty. The public consistently put health at the top of their agenda, and Harney has been having a torrid time of it. But Bertie comes through unscathed.
The D case is indisputably the fault of the Irish political class, which has had fifteen fucking years to legislate on the X case. For ten of those years, Bertie has been in power. Yet he escapes the odium.
The constant spotlight on Bertie’s convoluted personal finances would have destroyed a lesser man, but every time Bertie is accused of corruption his poll ratings actually go up.
Bertie has actually managed to out-Dev Dev. The Long Fellow said that he only had to look in his heart to know what the Irish people wanted. By contrast, the Irish people only have to look at Bertie to see what they want. He truly is the man for all seasons.
The multinational capitalist looks at Bertie and says, There’s the man for me, the man to keep our low-tax globalised economy on track.
The trade union bureaucrat looks at Bertie and says, There’s the man to keep us round the partnership table.
The Shinner looks at Bertie and says, There’s the man who might get us into government and just maybe a little closer to a united Ireland.
Big Ian looks at Bertie and says, There’s the Taoiseach who recognises partition and wants to be a good neighbour to the Orange state.
Yes, Bertie gives everybody just enough to hope for some more.
Bertie also represents in his person the defeat of the dialectic. In Bertie contradictions don’t lead to a higher unity, but only to more contradictions.
Bertie is a devout Catholic and a man of unorthodox marital arrangements.
Bertie is simultaneously for and against the war in Iraq.
Bertie has met personally a huge proportion of the population, but to those who have known him for years he remains an enigma.
Bertie is a capitalist and a socialist. And why not? In a political culture where Gerry Adams is a republican and Joe Higgins a revolutionary, why not Bertie the socialist?
We should cherish Bertie while he is still around, for we won’t see his like again. But I still wouldn’t vote for the sleekit bugger.