Taoiseach Micheál Martin has signalled that Fianna Fáil will give consideration to former leader Bertie Ahern rejoining the party more than a decade after he proposed that the former taoiseach be expelled.
Mr Martin said on Thursday that Mr Ahern had been playing a valuable role in trying to solve the issues around Northern Ireland protocol and that “nobody could take from him the contribution he made to peace in Ireland”.
He also said that it was more than a decade since Mr Ahern had resigned from the party and the context was different then.
“In the fullness of time, certainly we could give that consideration,” Mr Martin said.
The Taoiseach was asked on his view on Mr Ahern’s return to the party after the issue was raised at this week’s Fianna Fáil parliamentary party meeting in the context of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast Agreement coming next year
Mr Martin agreed that he had proposed Mr Ahern’s expulsion in the wake of the Mahon tribunal, but said the former taoiseach had himself resigned from the party in 2012.
“He resigned. There was a context there and issue there,” he said. “As far as I’m concerned, you know, it’s 10 years on. I’m conscious of the contribution he has made to peace in the country, a very significant contribution.”
He said he had been engaged with Mr Ahern for more than a year in an informal way, specifically in relation to the Northern Ireland protocol.
He said Mr Ahern maintained constant contact with different groups and gave a valuable insight into the thinking on the ground. He said they had not discussed Mr Ahern rejoining the party in their conversations.
He said that they tend to meet at social occasions, including matches and sporting occasions, and that “it’s very relaxed when we meet”.
When asked on Thursday about possibly rejoining the party, Mr Ahern said: “This issue has come up many times over the years and I’m not going to comment on it.”
He added that he has regular contact with the Government in relation to the issues of the Northern Ireland peace process and the protocol.
Mr Martin was speaking at the opening of a Penneys store at the Square shopping centre in Tallaght. He was accompanied by several party colleagues including Dublin South West TD John Lahart,
Asked for his views on Mr Ahern returning, Mr Lahart said: “We don’t live in a cancel culture. There is no journalist that at some stage of their career in the past decade hasn’t sought out Bertie Ahern specifically in relation to the North. It’s the same with Fianna Fáil.”
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