Monday, May 5, 2008

So, Farewell then ... Bertie Ahern

A little nod across the pond. Today is the last day in office for the Irish Taoiseach (pronounced Tee-shuk) Bertie Ahern. The Taoiseach announced a few weeks ago that he would be resigning office in the throws of the Mahon Tribunal hearings probing alleged personal finance anomolies. The Irish papers are chock full of testimonials and retrospectives such as this from the Irish Independent. Even opposition foes bid him a touching adieu in the Dail Eireann (the parliament).

Bertie Ahern is the tenth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, going back to 1938, and the 14th head of government, going back to 1919. Having held that office since 1997, Ahern is the longest serving Taoiseach since Eamon de Valera. In his American "farewell" speech in Washington last week, Ahern stressed that the Northern Irish Peace Accord was one of his proudest accomplishments in office. However, his speech also raised some eyebrows and caused some controversy, as Ahern treaded precariously into the fray of America's immigration debate. You could see the veins popping on Lou Dobbs' neck on CNN as he reported Ahern's appeal to grant amnesty to illegal Irish immigrants in the U.S.

This may not be the last we hear from Ahern (for some of you this may be the first). He is rumoured to be a possible nominee for either President of the European Council or President of the European Commission. Both of these posts must be named within the next year. Much hinges on the result of the vote on the Lisbon Treaty.

UPDATE: So to put it in Canadian terms (not that such is ever the universal standard of comparison), it is probably fair to say that Ahern was a little more Pearson than Trudeau. Although he clearly had a Trudeaupian hubris and one eye always focussed on his 'place in history,' this was comically at odds with his utter lack of charisma. Also, please visit the Green Ink blog post entitled "When did you start to hate Bertie Ahern."

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