Veteran leaders are dropping like flies at the minute, aren’t they? Here in Norn Iron, Papa Doc has signalled his retirement, which should be due in a matter of weeks. Word from Zimbabwe indicates that Uncle Bob may have reached the end of the line. But let’s not forget our own Man for All Seasons, our European statesman, our first socialist Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern.
The timing of Bertie’s departure, if not the fact of it, has taken us all by surprise. When the backslapping finishes, the question that will be asked by students of our Machiavellian leader is, “What did he mean by that?” The Phoenix is the place for that sort of theorising, so we’ll just have to wait and see if it went to press before Bertie’s announcement. [Update 5.4.08: I notice the Phoenix has indeed been caught on the hop by Bertie’s timing. Sir, I salute you!]
But perhaps more interesting is the question of what Bertie will do next. Is there some big international sinecure lined up for him? President of Europe, perchance? One would hate to think that he had invaded Chad in vain. Or, if he’s forced to remain in Ireland, he could advise the Shinners on how to transform themselves into Fianna Fáil Nua, as Grizzly and the boys don’t quite seem to have the acumen for it.
Bertie may also like to take some retirement advice from his old friend Mr Tony Blair. Since standing down as British prime minister, Mr Tony has kept up a veritable whirlwind of activity. First off, someone with a keen sense of humour made him the Empire’s high-powered peace envoy for the Middle East. Then there are the multimillion-dollar directorships at Morgan Stanley and Zurich – not bad for a virtual economic illiterate. He’s launching a foundation for interfaith understanding. And next year he’s going to be a visiting professor at Yale, which confirms a lot of my opinions about Yale.
There’s also the fine example of Liverpool University’s Mr Tony Blair Chair in Peace Studies. This opens up a line of thought – maybe UCD might consider a Bertie Chair in Personal Finance?