Monday 25 September 2017

Dr Patrick Bartholomew 'Bertie' Ahern I presume?

Ronald Quinlan Special Correspondent

Three terms in a row as Taoiseach and three honorary doctoral degrees to go with it... it's a record Enda Kenny could only ever dream of given his age and Fine Gael's track record in general elections.

For Bertie Ahern, however, the enviable hat trick was completed on Friday in the United States with his receipt of the degree of Doctor of Laws from Washington College, an institution established in 1782 and named in honour of its founding patron, George Washington.

While the Irish people may still have mixed feelings in relation to Mr Ahern's political record four years on from his retirement at the age of 60, in the US, his name is held in high regard thanks to the pivotal role he played in delivering the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998.

Delivering the citation at the former Fianna Fail leader's conferral, Washington College's interim president, Jack Griswold, said: "Mr Ahern accomplished much in a long career in public service. He became Ireland's youngest Taoiseach ever at age 45, presided over an unrivalled period of growth and prosperity, and brought peace and shared governance to Northern Ireland."

Commenting on the manner in which Mr Ahern had, along with the then British prime minister Tony Blair, managed to deliver the North from the three decades of violence known as the "Troubles", Mr Griswold said success in bringing peace did not depend on lofty speeches and grand gestures, but on "men and women of good intent setting aside their egos and dedicating themselves to long, exhausting hours of negotiation".

"No one knows that better than Patrick Bartholomew 'Bertie' Ahern," he said

Bertie Ahern at the Convocation. Please credit: Tamzin B. Smith, courtesy of Washington College.
Bertie Ahern at the Convocation. Please credit: Tamzin B. Smith, courtesy of Washington College.

Paying tribute to the former Taoiseach for continuing to use his "extraordinary negotiating skills and experience as an advisor to others seeking peace in entrenched conflicts around the globe", he noted that Mr Ahern had been the fourth person to address both the US Houses of Congress and the UK Houses of Parliament.

Also in attendance at last Friday's conferral was former Washington College president, Mitchell B Reiss.

Mr Reiss had worked closely with Mr Ahern when he served as United States Special Envoy to the Northern Ireland peace process.

In 2008, Mr Ahern was, along with former British prime minister Tony Blair, awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws degree by Queen's University in Belfast.

The two men received their degrees at a special two-day conference on the peace process, marking the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Two years previously in 2006, the then Fianna Fail leader and Taoiseach received his first honorary Doctor of Laws degree from the National University of Ireland (NUI).

Delivering the citation on that occasion, at a time when the country was experiencing the height of the 'Celtic Tiger' economic boom, NUI Vice Chancellor, Professor John Hughes said of Mr Ahern: "One of the major themes of his period in office is transformation - the transformation of the Irish economy, the transformation of our attitudes to the UK and to the North of Ireland, the transformation of our role within the EU and indeed of the EU itself, and the transformation of how we see ourselves as individuals and as a nation."

* See Bertie Ahern accepting his honorary degree from Washington College on www.independent.ie

Sunday Independent

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