Supporters of former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern have been canvassing opinions about him in preparation for the next Presidential election.
Supporters of Mr Ahern, as well as other Fianna Fáil activists, have been canvassing leading figures in north Dublin sporting and community groups to “gauge reaction” to his potential candidacy when Michael D Higgins retires from the role.
Mr Ahern has long harbored ambitions to become President, and it is believed that his supporters are confident that a bid for the Áras in 2025 would be successful in light of his renewed involvement in seeking to resolve the impasse surrounding the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Former Independent Alliance minister and Dublin Bay North TD Finian McGrath, who is now a board member at Shelbourne Football Club, has confirmed that he is aware of such canvassing and has himself been approached for his views.
The approaches have been from known members of Mr Ahern’s inner team, informally known as the ‘Drumcondra Mafia’.
Other leading GAA and soccer figures, who have an affiliation to the wider Fianna Fáil organization, have also been spoken to about Mr Ahern’s future.
When contacted for a comment, Mr. Ahern’s office said: “There is no vacancy”, but refused to deny interest in contesting the position of President when the time arrives.
The way has been cleared for Mr Ahern to rejoin Fianna Fáil after a 10-year absence since his resignation in the wake of the publication of the Mahon Tribunal report.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin has made it clear that he is “open to considering” an application to allow Mr. Ahern to rejoin the party, saying “it has been 10 years” since he resigned under a cloud of controversy.
Mr Ahern, now aged 71, has seen his reputation considerably rehabilitated given his standing and engagement in the North since the Brexit referendum and, along with former British prime minister Tony Blair, he has been assisting the Dublin and London governments in their efforts to restore the Stormont Assembly.
President Higgins is due to conclude his final term in 2025, having been re-elected in 2018.
Fianna Fáil TDs and senators, speaking to thehave said they are keen for Mr. Ahern to return to the party and would gladly support him to be the party’s candidate for the Áras.
In an interview last year to mark his 70th birthday, Mr Ahern refused to rule in, or out, a presidential bid in 2025.
The former Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader was tipped for a bid in the past, but it never materialized.
“I’ll see what state I’m in in 2025,” he said at the time. “At the moment, I’m busy at home and I’m busy abroad. God knows what will happen in the future.
“But I am conscious. I am 70 and it is pushing on.”
After the 2018 presidential election, the official salary of the President is €249,014. President Higgins chooses to receive the same salary, although he is entitled to a higher figure of €325,507.