It's been a pretty awful, humiliating few days for former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern.
The legacy he built during his many years as leader is quickly coming unglued as the Celtic Tiger bust continues. His Fianna Fail party was slapped hard during last week’s Irish elections, so much so that his brother Maurice lost his local council seat in Dublin, right in the heart of what was once confirmed Bertieland.
And, possibly worst of all, Bertie was publicly branded as cheap and shameless by the renowned, award winning director of a film starring soccer god Eric Cantona that premiered in Dublin last week, just a few days ahead of the elections.
Bertie and his brother Maurice arrived at the thronged Dublin debut of a film called “Looking for Eric,” starring Cantona, who was revered during his playing days with Manchester United, Bertie’s favorite English soccer team. The film is directed by Ken Loach, no stranger to Irish audiences as he helmed the 2006 Cannes Film Festival award winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” starring Cillian Murphy, which told the story of two Irish brothers fighting the British during the Irish War of Independence.
Bertie and Maurice cornered Eric on the red carpet and presented him with a replica of a Dublin football jersey, cameras clicking all the while. Loach was furious, though, at what he termed a political photo-op stunt on the eve of Maurice’s election.
“(Bertie) managed to get a photograph of his brother so his brother could bask in the reflected glory of Eric Cantona. I just thought it was cheap and I hope that people saw through it,” Loach told The Irish Times. “It made us irritated that this was just a political operator trying to hijack someone who was famous and well-respected for his own ends. It just demeans him, really, and his brother.”
Just in case Bertie missed the point, Loach also called him “a rather dodgy right-wing politician.” But perhaps what really hurt the most is that Cantona, according to the director, had “not a clue” who Bertie was. Ouch!
A spokesperson for the former PM says Loach is off base. “(Bertie) decided to take his brother Maurice as a guest. As a note of kindness, and to appreciate that Eric was over in Ireland and that he was such a great servant for Manchester United, we got a Dublin jersey with his name on it to present to him. It was a nice gesture and most people involved would see it that way,” the flak said.