Bertie Ahern, still a rogue and a celebrity
Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern launched Deaglán De Bréadún's 'Power Play' at Hodges Figgis on Tuesday, October 20. Deaglán spent 35 years working as a journalist with The Irish Times.
We were in the same year in Dublin's CBS Synge Street. After school we never met again until 1998 in Belfast when he was Northern Ireland editor of The Irish Times and I was working with the Irish News. Since then we are regularly in touch, indeed, I think I can say we have become good friends. So it was only 'right and proper' that he should invite me to the launch.
It was scheduled to kick-off at 6.30pm but everyone knows book launches are never on time and to turn-up on or before the appointed time looks nerdy.
So I'd say I was there about 6.40pm and to my surprise, fast on my heels, were Vincent Browne and Bertie. They were deep in conversation and I was tempted to go up to them and ask them what they were talking about. I nearly had the cheek to do it.
Loads of people arriving: journalists, politicians, Deaglán's family, publishers, people from the NGO sector but very few of Sinn Féin top brass. That was sort of odd as the book is about the rise of modern Sinn Féin. But is has been said that the party bosses were not too happy about some of the publicity the book received the previous Saturday in 'The Irish Times'.
Okay, Bertie's weak on past participles and his TH pronunciations but I listened to every word he said. I was impressed.
He praised Deaglán for mentioning the Sinn Féin strategists and pointed out this was the first time for the men to be mentioned. Though he did say he had bumped into them in various corridors over a number of years and always spotted that what they said to him one day was exactly what Gerry Adams said to him a few days later. Very interesting.
He spoke about back in his day when he was fighting elections in his constituency Sinn Féin were getting between one and two per cent of the vote. 'In the next election they will be disappointed if they don't get 25 per cent,' he smiled.
Bertie was also funny. He alluded to the fact that had Enda called a November election the book launch would be no news. And he believed Deaglán must have had words with MI5 and the PSNI as the launch was on the same day that the Villiers report was published on the activity of the IRA.
As soon as he was finished there was a media scrum around him. Bertie stood there, talking away, giving his words of wisdom. And back in that serious tone. Is it the eyes, what is it? Or is it that people who hold or held 'power' always have 'something' about them? On the night Bertie was a celebrity. And that, after all the years of scandal, controversy, financial ruination. On the night in Hodges Figgis everyone wanted to talk to Bertie. Rogue and celebrity.
Book launches are fun and usually there's a glass of wine going with them - that's if you imbibe. But why no soft drinks or a glass of tonic water? I gave up alcohol six years ago. Liberating. So I'd have enjoyed a tonic water. Didn't spot Bertie with a glass in his hand.