Analysis: The dirt will not stick to the Teflon Taoiseach
Ireland’s Prime Minister Bertie Ahern has worked his magic for a third time.
The Irish elections held on 24th May 2007 saw Fianna Fail returning as the largest party. They will be lead yet again by Bertie Ahern – his third consecutive five year term.
The electorate focused on the two traditional parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, with Bertie winning the trust of the masses, who appeared to be unwilling to stray too far from what they have enjoyed so far under his leadership.
Undoubtedly his reputation has tainted by allegations into his personal finances at the start of his campaign.
Over the past year the Taoiseach (the Irish word for Prime Minister) defended his acceptance of large sums of cash in the 1990’s during the separation of his marriage.
As a result, earlier polls suggested that the public had lost faith in the leader who had until then managed to distance himself from his corrupt predecessor Charles Haughey.
But Bertie Ahern’s true statesmanship and flair was exhibited during his speech on the Northern Ireland peace process and his televised debate on national television with Enda Kenny, the leader of the main opposition party, Fine Gael, just days before the election.
After its success in Northern Ireland, Sinn Fein hoped to gain support, but lost one of its five Dail seats.
According to Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern he was not surprised at Sinn Fein’s poor showing: “People saw that a party that has a Marxist, a socialist philosophy is not really in tune, particularly with the younger population who are all working, have cars, go on holidays and are trying to buy a house.”
Fine Gael, made strong gains since its disastrous campaign in 2002 by increasing its seats from 31 to 51, but its coalition party, the Labour Party failed to make enough gain to secure a majority administration.
Despite its victory, Fianna Fail did not secure an overall majority, which was mainly due to its smaller coalition party, the Progressive Democrats suffering an electoral meltdown.
Bertie Ahern now faces the prospect of tough talks with opposition parties to build a coalition government.