Bertie Ahern to resign as Irish premier

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern has today announced that he intends to stand down from the office of Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) on the 6th of May. Mr. Ahern made the announcement today at a press conference in Government Buildings in Dublin. Ahern's imminent resignation comes on the back of over a year of controversy surrounding payments received by him in the early 1990's while he was serving as Minister of Finance. He has been forced to give evidence on these payments to a tribunal of inquiry and his evidence there is ongoing.

Mr. Ahern has been a TD (MP) for 31 years and has been Taoiseach for the past 11 years, making him the second longest serving Irish Premier after Eamonn de Valera. He won a record 3rd term in office following the general election last year. He currently leads a coalition of his own party Fianna Fáil, the Green Party, the Progressive Democrats and various independent politicians.

Ahern noted, "Never, in all the time I've served in public life, have I put my personal interests ahead of the public good." Further going on to say, "I have never received a corrupt payment, and I've never done anything to dishonor any office I have held." Adding, "I know in my heart of hearts I've done no wrong and wronged no one."

Táiniste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister of Finance Brian Cowen is expected to succeed Mr. Ahern as both Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil.


Many Irish and British politicians have responded to decision to resign and made note of his work in Ireland's economy and the Northern Ireland peace process.

  Bertie Ahern will be remembered as one of the outstanding politicians of his generation both nationally and internationally.  

—Irish President Mary McAleese

Irish President Mary McAleese said of Ahern, "His contributions to our thriving economy and to peace in Northern Ireland were hugely important and he deserves every credit for the work he has done." McAleese added, "Bertie Ahern will be remembered as one of the outstanding politicians of his generation both nationally and internationally."

Irish Labour Party leader Eamon Gilmore welcomed the decision stating, "I came to the conclusion many months ago that Mr. Ahern would find it impossible to continue in office because of the mounting conflicts and contradictions between the statements he originally made about his financial affairs and the evidence uncovered by the Mahon tribunal."

Gilmore noted that Ahern made "remarkable achievements" during his tenure including "huge personal and political effort" in the Northern Ireland peace process. Finally Gilmore added, "On a personal level, I wish Mr. Ahern well in his retirement."

Opposition leader and leader of Fine Gael, Enda Kenny noted that the work of the government was being "distracted" by events of the Mahon tribunal and that "set standards and principles" for others that he has "not applied to himself until now."

Kenny added, "I know that personally this is a very sad day for the Taoiseach and I want to wish him well personally on his retirement as Taoiseach and for his future life. I have to say that this decision was inevitable. The Taoiseach here has bowed to the inevitable based on the weight of his own evidence at the tribunal."

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams noted, "He is justifiably proud of the fact that he was the Taoiseach who was in place and who, with the British prime minister and the rest of us, brought about the Good Friday agreement and he deserves our thanks for that. And he deserves our gratitude for that I mean, it was a collective effort, but clearly as the Taoiseach of the day he is due appreciation for that."

Mark Durkan, the leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, said "When he came to office, he inherited the peace process and the talks process and ensured that their opportunity for all the people of Ireland was maximized. His commitment to the north has been shown in his constant involvement either in implementing the Agreement or in initiatives to secure its implementation." He further added, "This good work involved not just high profile, high wire negotiations, but a lot of diligent private engagement with many interests."

  A remarkable man with a remarkable record of achievement.  

—Tony Blair, former British prime minister

Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister said of Ahern, "He will always be remembered for his crucial role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland, for transforming relations between Britain and the Irish Republic and for presiding over a sustained period of economic and social advance in Ireland." Blair further added, "He will have, deservedly, a central place in his nation's political history and much more widely." He said of Ahern, "A remarkable man with a remarkable record of achievement."

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown noted, "Bertie Ahern has been an outstanding statesman, and has made an historic contribution in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland, transforming Ireland's relationship with the UK, and playing a key role in the development of a forward looking and dynamic Europe." Brown added, "The UK could not have had a better partner."

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said, His political career is one of great achievement. He was a key player in bringing about the historic Good Friday Agreement, and I am in no doubt his significant contribution to the peace efforts and devolution will be a fitting and lasting legacy for his 30 years in politics."

Salmond added, "He has never failed to impress me - as taoiseach - and in his previous and wider roles in Irish politics. The accomplishments of the Irish Celtic Tiger economy demonstrate the advantage of being a small independent nation in Europe."