Fianna Fáil Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Charlie McConalogue has said that there are “no moves afoot” for former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to rejoin the party.

Speaking on the Agriland livestream from the National Ploughing Championships in Ratheniska in Co. Laois today (Wednesday, September 21), the Donegal minister said that Bertie Ahern was discussed by a “few members of the parliamentary party, in the context of the Good Friday Agreement”, but added that a return to the party is “certainly not in the offing”.

Minister Charlie McConalogue speaking on the Agriland livestream at Ploughing 2022

“Let’s be clear and I have no doubt in this, I don’t think we would have had a Good Friday Agreement without Bertie Ahern, the Fianna Fáil party, and the leadership that was shown at that time,” McConalogue told Agriland.

“That’s now coming up to the 25th anniversary at Easter next year and it was in that context that the discussion and very much, his role, was very much discussed at a parliamentary party meeting and the absolute importance of recognising that.”

It was put to the minister that some people affected by the deep economic fallout of 2008 and onwards have long memories and may be disheartened to hear suggestions that Bertie Ahern might return to the Fianna Fáil fold.

“You’re right, people have long memories. And one of the long memories people have is how central he was to that [Good Friday Agreement],” McConalogue continued.

“Anytime he speaks on the issue of Northern Ireland, I still stop to listen to what he has got to say because he’s got credibility and I think as a party, we want to recognise that because as our Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader during that period, he provided massive leadership.”

Bertie Ahern and Good Friday Agreement

The agriculture minister stressed that Bertie Ahern’s name was only brought up in the context of marking the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Ahern, who led the Fianna Fáil party for 14 years, resigned his membership in 2012, right before a meeting of the national executive of the party was due to discuss a motion to expel him.

The motion was tabled after the Mahon Tribunal raised questions about alleged payments to Bertie Ahern, finding that the evidence the former Taoiseach presented was inadequate. However Ahern insisted there was no wrongdoing.

The Good Friday Agreement was signed on Good Friday in April 1998 by both the UK and Irish governments in an effort to bring peace to Northern Ireland.

Speaking today, Minister McConalogue said that it is important to “work to ensure that the potential of the Good Friday Agreement is properly delivered upon because we still, 25 years on, see the ‘one foot in, one foot out’, one party’s in, another is out at a different time; it has been really unproductive.”

Minister McConalogue referenced what he called the good working relationship he maintains with Northern Ireland agriculture minister, Edwin Poots and said the two had cooperated well in recent months on the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status application for ‘Irish Grass Fed Beef’.

You can watch the full interview with Minister Charlie McConalogue on the Agriland livestream from the National Ploughing Championships by clicking here.