Tributes paid as Taoiseach spends last day in Dáil

Tributes are being paid to the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, on his final day in the Dáil today.

Mr Ahern will spend next week on a state visit to Washington before stepping down from his position on May 6.

Speaking in the Dáil this morning, Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny said he had been a dedicated leader whose diligence towards his job was unrivalled.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, meanwhile, said Mr Ahern's departure would mark the end of a remarkable era in Irish politics.

"When you were elected to the office of Taoiseach on June 26 1997, there were very few of our friends in the press gallery or indeed on this side of the House who believed that you would hold that office for almost 11 years, but you are an extraordinary politician," he said.

Mr Ahern himself thanked all the people he had worked with during his political career and said it had been a pleasure to serve his country.

"It's been a long journey, a real pleasure to play my part in bringing the country forward and working with everyone in this House in trying to do that over the past almost 11 years," he said.

He also paid tribute to the leaders of the other political parties and said his successor, Brian Cowen, would make a great Taoiseach.

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