The fact is that most sessions are similar in that very many politicians avoid them and leave it to staffers to fill their places. I remember a similar scenario when former Irish leader John Bruton had the same honor in 1996.
It hardly mattered anyway as Ahern delivered a stem-winder of a speech that had at the heart of it the statement that for the first time an Irish leader could stand in the well of the House and announce that there was peace in Ireland.
It was a simple but profound statement, and its reality was not lost on those present. They leaped to their feet and applauded a man who had done as much as any to make it a reality.
Ahern also mentioned the plight of the undocumented Irish in America, and received a scolding later that day on the nightly anti-immigrant rant hosted by Lou Dobbs on CNN. Ahern should wear it as a badge of honor.
Though he is now gone from power, it is unlikely Ahern will be forgotten. He is still a young man in political terms, just 56, and there are rumors of major job offers, including a possible role as Europe's first ever-elected president.
Whatever he does, he will hardly surpass the role he played in bringing peace to Ireland. Last week America paid the respect due to this peacemaker.
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