Gordon Brown: Ahern an 'outstanding statesman'

British prime minister Gordon Brown said the soon-to-depart Taoiseach Bertie Ahern had been an “outstanding statesman”.

He said: “I heard with great regret the news today of Bertie Ahern’s decision to stand down next month as Taoiseach.

“Bertie Ahern has been an outstanding statesman and has made an historic contribution in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland, transforming Ireland’s relationship with the UK and playing a key role in the development of a forward-looking and dynamic Europe.

“The UK could not have had a better partner.

“I wish him and his family well. We look forward to working with his successor towards continued peace and prosperity in both our countries.”

Irish President Mary McAleese commended Mr Ahern’s achievements over his years as Taoiseach.

“His contributions to our thriving economy and to peace in Northern Ireland were hugely important and he deserves every credit for the work he has done,” she said.

“Bertie Ahern will be remembered as one of the outstanding politicians of his generation both nationally and internationally.”

Mr Ahern’s second in command Brian Cowen – hotly tipped to be his successor - said the Taoiseach enhanced Ireland’s standing in the world.

The Tánaiste and deputy party leader paid tribute to Mr Ahern, whose contribution to the creation of today’s peaceful, successful, confident and modern Ireland has been incalculable, he said.

“From when he first entered government he has served Ireland’s interests with a commitment and drive unequalled by anyone of his political generation,” he said.

“His enthusiasm and energy levels never dimmed. He has played the major role in charting an economic, social and political course for this island during his tenure as Taoiseach.

“He has been centrally involved in bringing peace to Ireland using his political acumen and personal touch to help bring diverse traditions together to work co-operatively to the benefit of all.”

An opposition leader who had been expecting to challenge Mr Ahern in the Dáil later today over his financial affairs, welcomed his resignation.

Labour’s Eamon Gilmore said he came to the conclusion many months ago that Mr Ahern would find it impossible to continue in office because of the mounting conflicts and contradictions between the statements he originally made about his financial affairs and the evidence uncovered by the Mahon Tribunal.

“I hope that this announcement will now allow the government, the Dáil and the country to move on and to start dealing with the mounting social and economic problems facing Irish society.”

However, Mr Gilmore paid tribute to the Taoiseach’s achievements.

“Nobody, in particular, will dispute the huge personal and political effort he put into securing a political settlement in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“On a personal level, I wish Mr Ahern well in his retirement.”

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