IT'S Party Ahern; EXCLUSIVE JETSETTER BERTIE'S DETERMINED TO LEAVE OFFICE WITH A BANG

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Byline: By STEPHEN MAGUIRE

TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern is famous for his love of the simple things in life - good company and a pint of bass down his local.

So a party in his honour more than 150 miles away could well have put a halt to his usual weekend routine.

But sure isn't that what Government jets and Garda escorts are for?

That was the case on Friday night when the Fianna Fail leader ordered aides to have the EUR8 million Leer Jet on standby at Derry Airport - so he could make last orders in Fagan's of Drumcondra.

The outgoing Taoiseach was in Donegal after promising to attend a special fundraiser for Alan Doherty - a young man undergoing face surgery in the US.

But that was before his friends in Fagan's of Drumcondra decided they too wanted to have one last knees-up with the bar's most famous regular before he quits the country's top job.

The only answer was an evening planned with all the military precision of a Fianna Fail election campaign.

Having been welcomed like a longlost son, Mr Ahern, 56, dashed from the glitzy fund-raising function for Alan in the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny at 9.40pm - just minutes after finishing his meal.

He was then rushed by a Garda escort as far as the border where PSNI officers escorted his car to Derry Airport where the eightseater jet was on standby to fly him back to Dublin taking off around 10.30pm.

And with minutes to spare he arrived back in his favourite watering hole at 11.35pm for one last knees-up as leader of the country.

Mr Ahern heads to the US on Tuesday for a number of days to address the Houses of Congress in Washington and returns to tender his resignation on May 6.

A source close to the Taoiseach said Mr Ahern was determined to get back to Dublin for last orders on Friday night after yet another hectic day of pressing the flesh.

"He's had a very busy few days and certainly shows no signs of slowing down.

"He had promised to fulfil an engagement in Donegal which he made well in advance of announcing his resignation and he did that.

"But some of his closest friends over the years had organised a few last pints for him in Fagan's and he didn't want to let them down.

"He was pretty tired when he got back but Bertie is still determined to fulfil as many engagements as possible in his final days as Taoiseach," the source said.

In Donegal Bertie was mobbed by well-wishers who wanted to say one last goodbye.

As well as visiting the site of a new EUR21million Garda and fire station in Buncrana, he also opened the offices of local TD Niall Blaney.

But his main appointment was with brave teenager Alan Doherty in the Mount Errigal Hotel.

Social Diarist Gabrielle McMonagle pulled off a masterstroke when she convinced the Taoiseach to attend her annual ball and despite announcing plans to step down, Bertie didn't disappoint.

He paid tribute to Alan whose campaign team, The Friends Of Alan Doherty, have raised an incredible EUR1 million to help him get a new chin in the US.

Bertie said: "I am so glad that I could be here to say goodbye to all my friends and colleagues in Donegal. …