THE Labour Party last night claimed the Taoiseach had recognised the seriousness of his dealings with the Mahon Tribunal in deciding to resign.
Party leader Eamon Gilmore said he had long believed it would be impossible for the Taoiseach to remain in office because of the mounting "conflicts and contradictions" in his statements about his financial affairs.
"As far back as last year, I urged him to name a date for his departure and suggested that the immediate aftermath of his address to the US Congress would mark an appropriate point," said Mr Gilmore.
"Mr Ahern has now recognised the seriousness of the situation in which he finds himself and has set the date for his departure that I had suggested."
On leave of office in May, Mr Gilmore said he hoped the focus of government could return to the escalating problems concerning the economy and the health service.
Issues of grave concern include the deteriorating exchequer situation, the growing numbers on joining the live register, the renewed upward turn in inflation, and the ongoing huge problems in the health service, Mr Gilmore said.
"Mr Ahern has been the second longest taoiseach in the history of the state."
"He has had some remarkable achievements in his period in office and 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."
Speaking in the Dail yesterday afternoon, Mr Gilmore again welcomed the Taoiseach's decision and said he appreciated how difficult the decision must have been for him personally.
The Labour leader said he accepted and appreciated the Taoiseach had made his decision in the best interests of the country.
"It is a course of action I have been advocating to him for some time. In doing so, I have always acknowledged the contribution he has made to the political life of this country," he said.
"I hope he accepts that the political duty I have had to perform was done on a political basis and not on a personal basis."
Last night, Labour Youth rowed in behind the party, claiming Mr Ahern's position had become untenable in recent weeks. It described as "pathetic" the attitude of senior ministers lining up to defend the Taoiseach over his financial affairs.