Ahern Bids US Farewell

TAOISEACH (Irish Prime Minister) arrived in Washington on Tuesday evening in preparation for his address to the joint houses of the U.S. Congress on Wednesday morning, April 30.House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Ahern to address the joint houses earlier this year in recognition of his role as a Northern Ireland peacekeeper and one of Europe's longest serving leaders.At 11 a.m. on April 30 Ahern will be given the floor in Congress for approximately 40 minutes where he will discuss his tenure as taoiseach, the economy in Ireland, the Irish peace process and various other matters. Irish state broadcaster RTE will show the address live on television.After Ahern's address is over, he is due to meet with President George W. Bush at the White House, and attend a luncheon on Capitol Hill hosted by the congressional Friends of Ireland group. On Wednesday evening, he will attend a special reception at Irish Ambassador Michael Collins' residence in Washington.Ahern will fly to Boston on Thursday where he will attend a Boston College Club for Enterprise Ireland/IDA lunch. In the afternoon he will address a group of students at Harvard at the John F. Kennedy Library. An announcement is expected about new links between the Kennedy family and Ireland at this event.Senator Edward Kennedy introduced a Senate resolution praising Ahern's work on behalf of peace in the North. It also urged a global leadership role for the outgoing taoiseach, given the success of the Irish peace process.The resolution "hopes (Ahern's) unique talents will be of service in resolving conflicts elsewhere in the years ahead.""Prime Minister Ahern has served the people of Ireland with distinction for many years and has been an extraordinary friend to the United States throughout his years in office."Ahern, the resolution added, "kept (a) promise and worked assiduously to achieve the peace that Northern Ireland enjoys today."New York Congressman Joe Crowley will serve as a member of the escort committee when Ahern addresses Congress."As an Irish American and member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, I am honored to be part of the escort committee for Prime Minister Ahern's visit," said Crowley. "It will be a proud day for Ireland and for Irish Americans across the United States to hear from the taoiseach about the progress being made in Ireland, particularly the Northern Ireland peace process. I look forward to welcoming Bertie Ahern and to continuing the bond between the U.S. and Ireland."Ahern told his cabinet on Tuesday morning that he was looking forward to "getting on the road to America." As he boarded the government jet to Washington air cadets saluted the taoiseach. He will return to Ireland on Friday.Ahern will officially step down on May 6, at which time current Finance Minister Brian Cowen will take his place.

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