Wednesday 2 April 2008

The end of an era for Bertie Ahern and Irish politics

News that the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern is to step down will surprise nobody who has been following the convoluted tribunal investigations into the Taoiseach's murky financial affairs, and many in his Fianna Fail party probably think his resignation should have come sooner; hopefully, after May 6th, Brian Cowen can restore some semblance of purpose to the coalition government. Bertie presided over the good times for the Celtic Tiger, but failed to make the necessary improvements in health and education that the largesse of the boom years allowed; now Ireland is facing the economic chill that has affected the US and Europe. Yet his single greatest achievement, as Jonathan Powell reflects in his new book, was with Tony Blair to the Northern Ireland peace process and the Good Friday Agreement, and for that he deserves great credit - few will forget his returning quickly from his mother's funeral to keep the process on track. Bertie survived 11 years in office, a remarkable stint only matched by Eamon DeValera. Perhaps it was inevitable that as the country's fortunes started to wane, his did too. It is the end of an era not only for Bertie, but for Irish politics.

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