Ahern, Bertie

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ahern, Bertie

Bertie Ahern(Bartholomew Patrick Ahern) (əhûrn´), 1951–, Irish politician, prime minister of the Republic of Ireland (1997–2008). Born into a working-class family, he studied accounting at University College, Dublin. A member of Fianna Fáil, he entered the Irish parliament in 1977 and held a number of parliamentary offices. From 1986 to 1987 he was lord mayor of Dublin. Returning to national government, he served as labor minister (1987–91) and finance minister (1991–94).

Ahern became head of Fianna Fáil in 1994 and was leader of the opposition until 1997, when he succeeded John Bruton as prime minister, heading a Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrat coalition. He helped to broker a cease-fire by the Irish Republican Army, and in 1998 he and others (including Britain's Tony Blair and America's George Mitchell) brokered a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. Ahern also increased the republic's influence in Northern Ireland. His government was returned to office in the 2002 and 2007 elections, but as a three-party coalition with the addition of the Green Party after the 2007 vote.

Revelations that Ahern had received secret cash payments from businessmen in the early 1990s led to an investigation that revealed additional payments, and in 2008, with the controversy over the payments undermining his authority, Ahern resigned as prime minister and party leader. He was succeeded in the posts by Deputy Prime Minister Brian Cowen. The 2012 report by the investigation accused Ahern of lying under oath and his government of attempting to undermine investigation, but it also found that there was no evidence that Ahern did political favors in return for the payments.

See biography by K. Whelan and E. Masterson (1999).

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