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Harney says legacy of her 'good friend' will survive

PD leader Mary Harney has declared that Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will have an "undiminished legacy" despite the controversy over his personal finances.

Just a week after calling on him to dispel public disquiet, she praised his achievements in the Northern peace process, the economy and the EU.

She was briefed in advance on Tuesday by Mr Ahern about his decision to step down -- although she only got the exact details yesterday morning at Government buildings along with her cabinet colleagues.

In an indication of the warmth of the relationship between the two leaders, she praised him for his "unique and extraordinary political skills" while he referred to her as his "good friend" in his resignation speech.

Ms Harney said Mr Ahern had delivered peace on the island of Ireland, 11 years of stable coalition Government and an unsurpassed economic performance.

"These are permanent, lasting achievements and will be Bertie Ahern's undiminished legacy," she said.

She was seen walking through Government buildings at 10.26am yesterday to meet Mr Ahern before he made his resignation statement. Afterwards, she stood behind him -- although she was hidden from the view of the TV cameras due to the height of her cabinet colleagues.

The news of Mr Ahern's departure may affect the PD leadership contest due to the fact that one of the contenders -- Senator Fiona O'Malley -- publicly sparked the latest debate over his finances. She said last week that Mr Ahern had to inform the public about the latest revelations -- and was backed up subsequently by Ms Harney.

She was unavailable for comment last night. Her rival, Senator Ciaran Cannon, has said Mr Ahern must provide his explanation to the Mahon Tribunal.

Ms Harney, who led her party into three successive coalition governments with Mr Ahern, said that he could be very proud of his service to the country.

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