Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Bye Bye Bertie

Bertie Ahern has announced his desicion to resign as Ireland's Prime Minister, after more than a decade in power. He's been at the centre of a long-running scandal about his private finances, dating back to his period as finance minister during the early 90s. Mr Ahern will take the opportunity for one final moment on the international stage, when he addresses the US Congress at the end of this month, before formally standing down early in May.

The only thing most people may recall about Bertie Ahern is that he's a jovial sort of chap, who played an important role in securing the Good Friday Agreement a decade ago. They might be surprised to hear he's had to quit because of his past dodgy dealing. But then, he's the political protege of Ireland's hugely controversial and corrupt former Taoiseach Charles Haughey, who once called Ahern "the most skilful, the most devious and the most cunning" politician he'd ever known. Quite a testimonial.

It's certainly internationally that Mr Ahern will be most fondly remembered, and not just for his role in Northern Ireland. He was arguably the most pro-European of EU leaders, and not only put his country at the forefront of the traditionally Franco-German club, but also helped drive through important changes, overseeing the expansion of the union during his six-month presidency in 2004. And regardless of the grubby scandal that's badly tainted his image at home, Mr Ahern is surely a serious contender to be the EU's first full-time president. We haven't seen the last of this formidable politician.

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