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Bertie Ahern resigns

The Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern has resigned in the midst of a controversy over his personal finances.

The Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern has resigned in the midst of a controversy over his personal finances.

The Taoiseach's announcement was unexpected and came as a surprise even for the members of the government.

Bertie Ahern addressed journalists early in the morning of 2nd April to announce that he will step down as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader on May 6th.

Mr Ahern had been at the centre of an ongoing controversy since his personal finances started to be investigated by the Mahon Tribunal following allegations that he had received payments from a land developer in exchange of political favours.

The pressure for him to resign had increased since March 20th, after his former secretary Grainne Carruth contradicted his testimony to the Mahon Tribunal.

Ms Carrith admitted to the Mahon Tribunal that she lodged funds in Sterling into Mr Ahern’s account, while Mr Ahern had previously denied that he had lodged any Sterling to his account.

As the opposition parties renewed calls for the Taoiseach to resign, the government's coalition partners -Green Party and Progressive Democrats- urged Mr Ahern to clarify the contradiction between his evidence and that of his former secretary in order to appease “considerable public disquiet.”

Yet, the Taoiseach, who had previously insisted that he intended to stay in office until 2012 and claimed he had the full support of the Fianna Fáil party, refused to make a public statement on the issue and said he would "deal with tribunal matters at the tribunal."

Finally, two weeks after Grainne Carruth's testimony to the Mahon Tribunal, the Taoiseach called a surprise press conference in the morning of April 2nd and told the nation that he would step down as Taoiseach and Fianna Fáil leader on May 6th.

The unexpected announcement came as a shock even to his cabinet colleagues and Fianna Fáil Members of Parliament.

In his dramatic statement, Bertie Ahern defended his record as Taoiseach and said that he was standing down “by a desire to re-focus the political dynamic in this country."

Mr Ahern told that "I have never received a corrupt payment and I have never done anything to dishonour any office I have held. I know that some people will feel that some aspects of my finances are unusual. I truly regret if this has caused any confusion or worry in people's minds.”

"I look forward to the completion of the Tribunal's work and I am confident that when it reports, the Tribunal will find that I have not acted improperly in any way”, he said.

Mr Ahern also gave thanks to the people of his constituency, his family and political colleagues.

"I have been privileged to work with patriotic and decent colleagues and I will always be grateful for the faith they placed in me."


Politicians pay tribute to Bertie Ahern

All Irish political leaders welcomed Mr Ahern's decision and paid tribute to his strong political legacy.

Bertie Ahern became leader of a deeply divided Fianna Fáil in 1994. Not only he united his party but also led them to three general election victories in a row.

He was the first Taoiseach since 1944 to be elected on three successive occasions.

Despite the controversy over his personal finances that has overshadowed his last year in office, Bertie Ahern is unanimously recognised as the most successful Taoiseach of the last half century.

Mr Ahern is credited with leading the successful Celtic Tiger economy which transformed Ireland from the sick man of Europe into the one of the most prosperous countries in the world. He was also the driving force behind the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement in Northern Ireland.

The President of Ireland, Mary McAleese, led cross-party tributes to Mr Ahern highlighting his contribution to the economy and to the Peace Process in Northern Ireland.

"Bertie Ahern will be remembered as one of the outstanding politicians of his generation both nationally and internationally", said the Irish President.

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair defined Mr Ahern as "A remarkable man with a remarkable record of achievement". Mr Blair looked back to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement and said that Bertie Ahern "will always be remembered for his crucial role in bringing about peace in Northern Ireland."

The First Minister of Northern Ireland, Ian Paisley, also paid tribute to the Taoiseach saying that he enjoyed his "good working relationship".

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny welcomed the decision of Mr Ahern to step down and asked for a general election "to clear the air."

Referring to Bertie Ahern's succession, Mr Kenny said that the public should be allowed to choose the government they wanted.

"One of those ministers will take over the leadership of Fianna Fáil and of the Government. I believe that whoever takes over has no mandate to lead a government", said the FG leader.


Tánaiste Brian Cowen to succeed Ahern as leader

Current Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland) Brian Cowen will replace Bertie Ahern as Taoiseach and leader of the Fianna Fáil party.

Mr Cowen, who holds the jobs of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, was declared the only nominee for leadership of Fianna Fáil as expected. He will become Taoiseach after Bertie Ahern leaves office.

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