Could it be time for Ireland to bring Bertie Ahern back?


Former Irish leader Bertie Ahern
Former Irish leader Bertie Ahern

If we do not learn from our mistakes and embrace those that have made them, we will always be prone to repeating the errors of the past.

With the housing market looking likely to blossom once again, the sense of excitement in the media is palpable. Indeed, many are using the Dublin-led property price rise as the barometer signalling an economy on the steady rise out of recession.

The question is, however, have we learned the hard lessons of the past or are we still gullible suckers who believe far too much in fairy tales and falsehoods?

Now, more than ever, we need the ability to look at our past, present and future with a clear head and 50/50 vision. However, while this would be the ultimate sign of a country that has finally reached adulthood, it seems as far away as ever when it comes to our national psyche.

In January 1988 the Economist used the headline “Poorest of the Rich” to describe Ireland’s place in Europe. Less than ten years later it was lauding us as “Europe’s shining light.” But it was under Bertie Ahern’s leadership that the country truly became a global brand for success.

Indeed, between 1997 and 2008 Ahern’s impressive list of achievements was not only the envy of any Taoiseach, but any world leader.

Economic growth was three-times the European average during this period as Ireland soared to the top of the EU Quality of Life league table. Unemployment was reduced to record low of 3.7pc, average life expectancy rose by 3.7 years, and our young workforce was heralded internationally as one of the best educated in the world.

History will also show the crucial role Ahern played in Northern Ireland, especially given the fact he was the first Taoiseach to win the trust of the unionist population.

Indeed, Bertie’s shrewd ability as a statesman saw Ireland excel on a European stage.

And now with our economy looking to finally bounce back, few leaders in the world have Bertie Ahern’s track record when it comes to economic and social success.

However, mention his name or list of achievements nowadays and you will be verbally hung, drawn and quartered by a mob that naively believes only a handful of politicians, bankers and developers were responsible for Ireland’s riches to rags implosion.

Of course, Ahern’s Fianna Fail, with the help of us all, inflated the Celtic tiger to such a degree that when it went pop there was no soft landing. That was a grave error, but one for which we all have to take a certain share of the blame. Just as our leaders became hypnotized by success, so too did we as consumers spend, spend, spend while further fueling our Government’s folly.

So rather than hysterically cheer lead the rise in property prices, or indeed blinding blame Bertie and Co for our downfall, the only way we can ever ensure we learn from the past is to embrace it.

And while that includes the bad and the ugly of Fianna Fail’s and Bertie’s reign, it also needs to include the good.

Indeed, many of Bertie’s skills and insider knowledge of the drastic errors he and his government made could just be what it takes to drag this country out of recession and back to sustainable levels of prosperity.

However, while in America they laud people who have learned the hard lessons of failure, in Ireland we shun them. And that is why, unfortunately, we never truly seem to learn from our past.

Paul Allen is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com


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