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Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern (Patrick Bartholemew Ahern) {born September 12 1951} is the tenth Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland and has been the sixth leader of Fianna Fáil since 1994. He was born in Dublin, Ireland.

An Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Term of Office:June 26 1997 - present
Predecessor:John Bruton
Successor: -------
Date of Birth:September 12, 1951
Place of Birth:Dublin, Ireland
Political Party:Fianna Fáil

Table of contents
1 Early Life
2 Elected to Dáil Éireann
3 Joining the Cabinet
4 The End of Haughey
5 Reynolds Succeeds
6 Ahern Becomes Fianna Fáil Leader
7 Ahern as Taoiseach
8 The Future

Early Life

Bertie Ahern was born on September 12 1951 in Dublin into a traditional Republican family. His father had seen active service during the War of Independence and Irish Civil War. Young Ahern was educated at St. Patrick's National School in Drumcondra, St. Aidan's Christian Brothers in Whitehall, and Rathmines College of Commerce. Ahern's introduction to politics came at the age of 14 when he became involved in a Fianna Fáil by-election campaign in his constituency. Ahern had the task of climbing up lamp posts to hang up election posters. During this campaign Ahern first met his politial mentor and future Taoiseach, Charles Haughey. In the Irish General Election, 1969 Ahern helped in the election campaign in his constituency again. The Dublin-Central constituency produced Charles Haughey and George Colley as TD's. These two men would later go on to battle with each other for the leadership of the party a decade later. Meanwhile Ahern went on to qualify as an accountant and found employment in the Mater Hospital in Dublin.

Elected to Dáil Éireann

Coming into the Irish General Election, 1977 Fianna Fáil were in opposition. The Fine Gael-Labour coalition was hoping to be re-elected. However, on polling day Fianna Fáil achieved 50% of first preference votes and was elected with a 20 seat Dáil majority. Constituency after constituency threw up new TDs including one Bertie Ahern. On his first election campaign Ahern received 4,000 first prefernce votes and was elected with transfers from other candidates. During the first few years as a TD Ahern was just another backbencher. In 1979 the concerns of the Fianna Fáil Party turned to who would succeed Jack Lynch. The two candidates who put their name's forward were George Colley and Charles Haughey. It is well known that Ahern, who had served on a health committee with Haughey in the mid-70's, backed Haughey in the leadership race. Colley, the candidate favoured by the Party establishment, was beaten by a handfull of votes in the final result. Even though Ahern was too low down on the political ladder to expect any real promotion from Haughey he was still appointed Assistant Government Whip. In 1980 Seán Moore, the actual Chief Whip, became ill. This meant that Ahern was effectively doing the work of Moore without any additional credit.

Joining the Cabinet

In 1981 and 1982 Ireland was faced with three general elections Ahern increased his personal vote on all three elections, on one occassion he even out-polled his running mate George Colley, a man who hoped to be Taoiseach less than three years earlier. Fianna Fáil remained in opposition until 1987 when they were returned to power. During this fallow period for Fianna Fáil Ahern became Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1986. Ahern was appointed Minister for Labour, not a hugely important portfolio when he took over. By the time he left it was apparent that it was a central department in kick-starting Ireland's ailing economy. Haughey and Ahern were seen as key players in negotiating with the trade unions and in getting a national economic agreement. In 1989 Haughey called an early general election, an election which saw Fianna Fáil lose seats. As a result Fianna Fáil were forced into a coalition with the Progressive Democrats. The coalition negotiations were spear-headed by Albert Reynolds and Ahern and eventually a programme for government was produced. The PDs were given two seats at the Cabinet table while Ahern returned as Minister for Labour.

The End of Haughey

The Irish presidential election, 1990 was the first one to be contested for seventeen years. Brian Lenihan, the hugely popular Tánaiste was Fianna Fáil's candidate and Ahern was his Director of Elections. Lenihan appeared to be a shoe-in for the job but a series of events unfolded which saw his chances diminish and which eventually lead to Mary Robinson becoming the seventh President of Ireland. In 1991 the programme for government was reviewed between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats. Ahern was a key player in these talks again. When all hope had faded of a return to government Ahern pulled off a master stroke and the coalition was back on track. This prompted Haughey to remark of Ahern, 'He's the most clever, the most cunning, the best of the lot.' In November 1991 Albert Reynolds and his supporters launched a leadership challenge on Haughey. Ahern publicly backed Haughey, however, he knew that he would be leaving the following year anyway. The challenge by Reynolds failed and he and his supporters were dismissed from the Cabinet. In the Cabinet reshuffle that followed Ahern was promoted to Reynolds' old portfolio, that of Minister for Finance. In early 1992 Charles Haughey was accused of knowing about the tapping of journalsits' phones in the early 1980's, something which he always denied. This time his luck ran out and he decided to resign as Taoiseach.

Reynolds Succeeds

Fianna Fáil now turned to who would succeed Haughey. Ahern was encouraged by many to allow his name go forward, however he was apprehensive. Eventually better judgement prevailed and he remained out of the leadership contest. Albert Reynolds eventually became Haughey's successor as Fianna Fáil leader and Taoiseach. Ahern and Dr. Michael Woods were the only two senior members to remain in Reynolds' new Cabinet, with Ahern retaining his Finance portfolio. Following the Irish General Election, 1992 Fianna Fáil formed a coalition government with the Irish Labour Party. This lasted until late 1994 when Albert Reynolds resigned as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader. This time Ahern was poised to take over the leadership.

Ahern Becomes Fianna Fáil Leader

Another candidate, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, allowed her name go forward in the leadership race but it was a foregone conclusion that Ahern would succeed. Eventuall Geoghegan-Quinn withdrew and Ahern was elected unopposed as the sixth leader of Fianna Fáil on November 17 1994. Negotiations between Fianna Fáil and the Irish Labour Party for a continuation of government got underway as quickly as possible. It was taken for granted that the coalition would continue and that Ahern would become the next Taoiseach. However the Labour leader, Dick Spring, called off the arrangement and Ahern found him as leader of the Opposition instead of leader of the government. John Bruton became the new Taoiseach instead. In 1997 the 'Rainbow Coalition' came to an end and a general election was called. Following the Irish General Election, 1997 it was clear that there would be a chage of government. Eventually Fianna Fáil formed a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats. Its leader, Mary Harney, would become Tánaiste and would have one other seat at Cabinet.

Ahern as Taoiseach

On June 26 1997 Bertie Ahern was elected the youngest Taoiseach in the history of the Irish state. Early on in Ahern's first government his Foreign Minister, Ray Burke, was forced to resign after allegations of corruption. This was just a minor setback for a government that was just finding its feet. One of Ahern's biggest achievements as Taoiseach has been the on-going progress in the Northern Ireland Peace-Process. Developments came to their zenith when history was made at Easter 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. The agreement was seen as something special because not only was it endorsed by the political parties but it was endorsed by the British and Irish governments and the people of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ahern also presided over an unprecedented economic boom in Ireland. Following the Irish General Election, 2002 the Fianna Fáil lead coalition was re-elected with an even bigger Dáil majority. This was the first time a government has been re-elected since Jack Lynch's government in 1969.

The Future

In interviews Ahern has expressed his interest in leading Fianna Fáil into a third general election victory which he hopes will be in 2007. He hopes to remain in politics until he is 60 years old, whether he is Taoiseach, a backbencher or otherwise. Following a downturn in opinion polls for Ahern and the government speculation has been mounting that a challenge to his leadership could be mounted if the Party performs badly in the European Elections in June 2004. The two likely candidates to succeed him, Health Minister Micheál Martin and Foreign Minister Brian Cowen, have pledged their loyalty to Ahern and have no immediate plans to unseat him.

Preceded by:
John Bruton
9th Taoiseach (1994-1997)
Prime Ministers of Ireland
Taoisigh na hÉireann
Succeeded by:
currently in office.