Bertie Ahern: 'too ambitious'

BERTIE AHERN has admitted that his government's decentralisation plan was "never going to happen".

Speaking to the Sunday Tribune on the second anniversary of his departure from the role of Taoiseach, Ahern said: "Decentralisation was too ambitious. To move the amount of people we tried to move in a short period of time was never going to happen.

"I think decentralisation per se is a good idea but to try and do so much of it so quickly was never going to happen. I readily admit it was too ambitious to do it so quick, but equally so, I think that a lot of the ones that have moved out have worked well."

In his December 2003 budget speech, the then finance minister Charlie McCreevy announced that 10,300 public servants would be dispersed to 53 locations around the country. But the plan, which is currently on hold and expected to be scrapped, has been widely viewed as a failure that has cost the taxpayer over €300m to date.

While Ahern has regrets about decentralisation, he does not accept any responsibility for the housing bubble and its subsequent collapse.

He claimed the property bubble would not have taken off if he had not given in to "media and political pressure" to get rid of the residential property tax in April 1997 that he had the vision to bring in before then.

Ahern denies responsibility for the property bubble and blames globalisation for the collapse. "It's a pity the recession came when it did. A few years would have slowed out the property thing... and we wouldn't have got the quick dip. But the morning Leh­man's happened, that was it and this is the trouble with globalisation."