Ahern to retire from politics

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has confirmed that he will not be contesting the next general election and is retiring from politics.

Mr Ahern - who quit as Taoiseach in 2008 - had previously indicated the 30th Dáil would be the last he would contest.

Addressing the O'Donovan Rossa Cumann in Dublin - which he joined 40 years ago this week - Mr Ahern said he turns 60 next September and that he has always maintained he would have retired by then.

Mr Ahern said it was time for a new guard to direct Ireland through a difficult future.

“Now it is time to stand aside, to pass on the baton and allow others to continue the race,” he said.

“The future is always unfolding. The unfolding future I see is one of difficulty that will be surmounted, of challenges that will be met and of a country that will achieve its potential.

“A new generation will define that potential. They will strike out towards new frontiers and they will set a new agenda. Such is life and such especially is political life.”

Taoiseach Brian Cowen said his colleague’s departure from political leadership “truly marks the end of an era”.

Mr Cowen added: “He is without question the consummate politician of our generation in this country.

“He is a person of rare ability and extraordinary talent. He has an immense work ethic and he is a superb negotiator.”

Mr Ahern was first elected to the Dáil in 1977.

Announcing his decision to stand down after 40 years in Fianna Fáil, Mr Ahern said it was hard or impossible for some people to keep faith in the country’s future.

But he insisted there was genuine cause for confidence based on the real, sustainable and lasting gains which Ireland has made in recent times.

“The truth about the achievements of the past decade and about the prospects for the one unfolding in front of us now is that, despite what the critics may say, neither extreme of arrogant over-confidence or self-defeating pessimism are justified or helpful,” he said.

“Ireland is not ’banjaxed’,” he said.

“Ireland is not ’an economic corpse’.”

Mr Cowen said his predecessor as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader would be remembered as a joint architect of the peace process.

He also paid tribute to his work as Finance Minister and Labour Minister, and the setting up of the social partnership.

“He is without question the consummate politician of our generation in this country,” said Mr Cowen.

Mr Ahern was the first Irish leader to win three successive general elections since Eamon DeValera in the 1940s.

He will also be remembered for his controversial personal finances and his stewardship of Ireland during a boom that preceded an historic crash.

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