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Ronald Quinlan: We can't rewrite history – Bertie played hero's role in peace deal

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Bertie Ahern, George Mitchell and Tony Blair, smiling after they signed the historic Good Friday Agreement.

Bertie Ahern, George Mitchell and Tony Blair, smiling after they signed the historic Good Friday Agreement.

Bertie Ahern, George Mitchell and Tony Blair, smiling after they signed the historic Good Friday Agreement.

ON the day the deal was finally done, he was hailed a hero along with his British counterpart, Tony Blair. As the 15th anniversary of the historic Good Friday Agreement came and went last week, however, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's massive contribution towards bringing peace to Northern Ireland appeared to be all but forgotten.

Indeed, last Wednesday (the precise date of the Agreement's anniversary), even the Irish Times managed an editorial on what it termed "a transformative agreement" without a single mention of Mr Ahern's name, or Mr Blair's for that matter.

With the wounds of the public still fresh from the country's economic collapse, it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that the press didn't have the grace or the guts to properly acknowledge the former Taoiseach's efforts to bring an end to the decades of murder and mayhem for which Northern Ireland had become known around the world.

As much as it might have bothered him, Mr Ahern certainly wasn't letting on when the Sunday Independent caught up with him on his way in to dinner last Friday evening at Dublin's Merrion Hotel with two of his most loyal friends, long-standing constituency organiser Chris Wall and three-time British Olympian and BBC athletics commentator, Brendan Foster.

Asked for his thoughts on the 15th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement and the relative peace it has brought, Mr Ahern said: "It's 15 years on and I think it has worked, and worked well. The politicians in the North, I think, have stuck faithfully to the Good Friday Agreement. The process was always meant to be inclusive and I think that it has been. Okay, there's been some dissident violence but the agreement has worked well.

"We had thousands of people killed during the years of the Troubles. We had tens of thousands of people injured. There was no investment in the North. Tourism there was non-existent.

"Now the North, even in tough times, is doing well and it will do even better by the time we hit the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. The amount of violence is now very small and I've worked with the World Economic Forum on various conflicts. I still keep in touch with Tony Blair and Bill Clinton and I'm still a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Recently, I've been doing a bit of stuff on Burma and earlier on in the year I did work on Libya."

The anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement also serves as a sad reminder for Mr Ahern of the death of his mother, Julia.

Recalling this, he said: "Yeah, that was a tough week. I was in St Luke's that morning to have the first meetings early, at 8 o'clock. I was to drop up to me Ma. Then I had to come back over here to the talks. While I was down in Luke's, she had the heart attack and then that week was up and down. Whenever you hear about the Good Friday Agreement, you can't get away from thinking about that, but it [the agreement] worked."

Irish Independent