Just two former Cabinet ministers attended a glitzy party at Croke Park in Dublin for former Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern’s 60th birthday.
Former Justice Minister Dermot Ahern and former Finance Minister Charlie McCreevy were there among 200 revelers, but there was a noticeable absence of several others, including his successor as taoiseach, Brian Cowen, and Mary Harney.
Former U.S. and U.K. leaders Bill Clinton and Tony Blair sent greetings and happy birthday wishes on recorded video messages to what was being described as the party of the year in Ireland, although there was much criticism that it should have been held so publicly in Croke Park.
Reporters anxiously attempting to get an insight into the €15,000 party organized by Ahern’s daughters Cecelia and Georgina door-stepped the gates but got just a few details from guests. The former taoiseach slipped quietly in a side door.
Tailor to the stars Louis Copeland, who has known Ahern since he was 12, admitted he was wearing one of his suits. Copeland said, “He always wears my suits.”
Ahern’s former wife Miriam and her partner, restaurateur Terry McCoy, happily posed for photographers on their way into the celebration in a room filled with hot air balloons.
Ahern’s party was on Friday, three days before his actual 60th birthday on Monday of this week.
His son-in-law Nicky Byrne, a singer with popular group Westlife who have had 14 number one hits in the U.K. and Ireland, said Ahern was dismayed by media coverage of his party.
Byrne, who is married to Ahern’s daughter Georgia, said, “How could you not be upset by what is going on? It would be hard not to be. It’s hard for him to watch and read this sort of thing.
“It’s hard for him to be in a position now, where he is not at a level to defend himself because he is not in public office any more.”
The singer emphasized that there was only one protestor outside Croke Park which was “the spiritual home” of the Ahern family since they spent so much time at matches there. Anyone was entitled to rent a room there.
Ahern aroused fury when he appeared in a TV3 documentary, The Rise and Fall of Fianna Fail, and described some members of the party as “a useless bunch of good-for-nothings.”
And in the second installment of the program, aired on the night of his actual birthday, September 12, Ahern refused to accept any responsibility for the country’s economic collapse, saying it was just “handy” for people to blame someone.
He blamed his ministers for the gross overspending that characterized his years in office.
His former partner Celia Larkin, who did not attend the party, has advised Ahern to “shut up” as his views continue to attract controversy.