Could I ask the members of the public not to laugh while evidence is being given?
That’s what the chairman of the tribunal said today when Bertie Ahern was giving evidence.
Why did Alan Mahon feel the need to say that? Simple. People in the public gallery were breaking their arses laughing at Bertie’s evidence.
In many ways, despite all I’ve said, the whole thing is pathetic. Bertie Ahern is pathetic, this man of the people who feels inferior and in his manner of speech tries to hide his origins. Everyone makes much of Bertie’s working-class speech patterns, yet nobody comments on his attempts to disguise the way he talks. Nobody remarks on the strangulated pronunciations, or the vowels he unconsciously introduces to hide his Dublin origins. It’s embarrassing in its failure as much as in its intent.
We all know the sort of character Tom Kilroe represents. A young emigrant to Britain in the hard times at the age of 15 with no education, he rose to foreman with some English builder. He set up his own company at 28 and through ruthlessness combined with a merciless pursuit of money, he became wealthy. He bought racehorses to legitimise himself, and perhaps a few paintings or a wall of books to disguise his illiteracy and insecurity. He tried, unsuccessfully, to hide his Roscommon accent. He bought a helicopter. Despite all his money, he knew he was an ignorant man, and he hated it.
Is it any wonder that Bertie Ahern would be impressed by such men, or that he would seek to associate with them? These Irish builders in Britain were all wealthy, all ruthless, all crude and unlettered. Bertie wouldn’t have felt intellectually stretched in such company, because these men had no interest in books or culture, just as Bertie doesn’t, and yet these men were no fools. These were intelligent men, devoted to making money, but without finesse and with little interest in the finer things of life. Building-site ganger-men made good, and flying around in helicopters. Men who never read a book in their lives. Bertie’s kind of people.
And this is why we have the unedifying spectacle of our finance minister going to Manchester United matches and handing bundles of money to some gobshite builder from Roscommon.
Bertie thought that was a classy way to do business, and I’m afraid to tell you that this is the man who defined Irish political life for the last decade.