From top: Grainne Carruth, former secretary to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, arriving at the Mahon Tribunal at Dublin Castle on March 20, 2008; Bertie Ahern announces his intention to resign on April 2, 2008; Dan Boyle
In March 2008 Gráinne Carruth, the constituency secretary of then Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, appeared before the Mahon Tribunal, to face a difficult cross examination.
Her isolation and lack of support from her employer shocked the watching public. Among other elected representatives this cruel indifference caused even greater concern.
The relationship between a member of the Oireachtas and their constituency secretary is a vital one. I was blessed to have had an excellent secretary. We still remain friends.
Despite a very good working relationship I learned far too late how much she sought to protect me, shielding me from much of the volume and intensity of the abuse that subsequently came through my office.
Ahern’s treatment of Carruth was a very public betrayal, seen as far worse than any other political sin he was perceived to be associated with. It was what ultimately led to his resignation from office. That resignation wasn’t immediate but it came about relatively quickly afterwards.
On entering government the Greens were aware that Ahern had stated he would be stepping down as Taoiseach during the course of the term of government.
The tone and tenor of what was likely to emerge from the Mahon Tribunal had begun to come out before the 2007 general election.
Some 42% of the electorate chose to disregard these concerns and seemed to happy for Bertie Ahern and Fianna Fáil to continue in government.
The Greens had decided that the party would not react to every subsequent revelation made at the Tribunal, waiting until the final findings had been made, expecting those in Fianna Fáil who had been compromised to act accordingly.
We wanted to avoid the PD/Michael McDowell/Grand Old Duke of York routine of making every revelation a crisis. As a strategy it seemed be working fine until the Carruth evidence.
Before she gave that evidence I found myself being interviewed by Eamon Keane on his lunchtime Newstalk programme.
It seemed to cause surprise when I stated, what I thought was obvious, that the Taoiseach would resign in the early part of the life of the government, and that he would tells us when.
Directly after the Carruth evidence Fiona O’Malley of the PDs, found herself being interviewed by the same presenter. She let Ahern have it have it with both barrels.
It was thought she, like me a Senator, would be easily dismissed. By afternoon she was being backed up her party leader, Mary Harney. By evening John Gormley was falling in line saying that Ahern had questions to answer.
Even then it was thought some formula would be agreed for Bertie to stay put. A no confidence in government motion almost achieved its desired effect.
Fianna Fáil sought an amendment that criticised the Tribunal and its chief member. As the line Minister responsible, John Gormley refused. The Green insistence that no such criticism be made prevailed.
On the morning of April 2nd, 2008, the members of the Green parliamentary party received a group text. It told us that Bertie Ahern would be making a televised statement at 9.30am. Members of the cabinet were being informed but the rest of us remained unknowing of what was to be said.
When Bertie announced his resignation it didn’t come as much of a surprise. Being in government the Greens response to the resignation was somewhat dithering. Eamon Ryan wasn’t present on the plinth. John Gormley stood to the back of the ministerial scrum, although television angles showed him quite close to Bertie.
It was the first real crisis of being in government. Things couldn’t get any worse we thought.
Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle