Paul Tansey wrote an impressive list of economic achievements during Bertie Ahern’s tenure as Taoiseach:
On Ahern's watch, the Irish economy almost doubled in size, while the numbers at work increased by one-half . . The unemployment rate declined from 10.4 per cent in 1997 to 4.6. In the 10 years from 1987 to 1997, net emigration amounted to 83,000 people. This migratory experience was wholly transformed in the succeeding decade. . . In the 10 years to 2007, the net immigration inflow reached 392,000. The annual volume of Irish consumer spending on goods and services has risen by four-fifths since 1997 . . average per capita living standards have risen by some 50 per cent over the past decade. Thus, Ahern can look back on an extraordinary record of economic achievement.
No doubt. So why is there still a nagging sense of something fundamentally amiss? Could it be that historians, looking back on that decade, might reach a different conclusion? Mr. Ahern’s lasting legacy may well be that, with more resources at his disposal than any other Government had, he proved not to be the most devious, the most cunning; but rather the most wasteful, the most short-sighted.