I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized They Took The Blows

They Took The Blows

Eoin O’Malley
Albert Reynolds – My Autobiography, by Albert Reynolds, Transworld Ireland, 320 pp, £20, ISBN: 978-1848270428 Bertie Ahern: The Autobiography, by Bertie Ahern, Hutchinson, 368 pp, £20, ISBN: 978-0091931322The autobiography is a self-indulgent form of fiction, and none more so than the political autobiography. You live a life that you think interesting enough that other people would want to read about it, and then you twist the narrative to make yourself the hero and virtually everyone who disagreed with you the villains. So most political autobiographies end up taking the form: the country was in a mess and I was just trying to get things done. I was doing a great job, despite all those begrudgers constantly trying to do me down. Eventually I was tripped up by a piddling little thing. They didn’t appreciate me … fuck them.As both Bertie Ahern and Albert Reynolds demonstrate, political careers always end in failure, even the successful ones. The autobiography is a useful means of reframing those failures and successes. This is not unreasonable; the manner of both men’s downfalls meant that a good deal of attention was focused on the causes of the endings and less on the achievements of two impressive political careers. Ahern of course stage-managed his exit (if not its nature and timing), thus ensuring a focus on the political settlement in Northern Ireland. Reynolds’s exit was a depressing form of political “death by misadventure”.Reynolds and Ahern, though consecutive leaders of Fianna Fáil, both elected to the Dáil in the same year, contrast in many ways. Reynolds was the party’s shortest-serving leader so far, while Ahern was leader for fourteen years and Taoiseach for eleven. Ahern learned a lot from Reynolds’s mistakes: he had a real understanding that there was no point in creating enemies; one way Reynolds did this was by bragging about every victory he achieved. Ahern, by contrast, was careful to be understanding of others’ positions. Both are characteristics in evidence in the autobiographies.There was no long tradition of political autobiography in Ireland. But more recently many have been published (David Andrews, Pádraig Faulkner, Frank Dunlop, Conor Cruise O’Brien). Most of these are little more than collections of anecdotes and funny stories, with some attempts to offer opinions on events. O’Brien’s is an exception, but his involvement in frontline Irish politics was shortlived. Of those who had sustained careers at the apex of Irish politics we had…

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