Ahern to oversee Papua New Guinea referendum
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has taken up a new role overseeing an independence referendum in Bougainville.
The island is an autonomous region within Papua New Guinea which suffered nearly 20,000 casualties during a decade of bloody conflict between 1989 and 1997.
Residents will go to the polls next June as part of the Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA), which was signed by the Papua New Guinea government and representatives of Bougainville 2001.
This provided the legal basis for the establishment of the Autonomous Bougainville Government (ABG) in 2005 and a gradual transfer of powers from the national government. It also included provisions for weapons disposal.
Since 2001, the agreement has enabled political dialogue between the Papua New Guinea government and the ABG and paved the way for the referendum planned for June 2019.
Mr Ahern has been asked to act as chair of the referendum commission, which will ensure that a fair voting process is put in place. He visited Papua New Guinea and Bougainville in October, when he met with senior officials and international partners including the EU, UK, US France Australia and New Zealand.