MEMBERS of the Irish American community had mixed reactions to the announcement last week that Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Bertie Ahern will resign in May.Karen Duke, an immigrant from Co. Longford, believes that Ahern should have stepped down months ago. "He waited so long that his entire legacy will be about this scandal," said Duke, referring to the investigation of Ahern's financial history during the Mahon Tribunal in Dublin over the past year. "It is a sorry end to a long career," she said.Duke feels that Ahern should have resigned prior to his address to a joint session of Congress in May. "With so many Irish living here we need a credible representative. He should have placed those needs above his own desire to hang on," she said.Paul Byrne, of Sullivan County, New York via Dublin, said Ahern's decision to leave his post was a smart move. "There was just too many question marks surrounding his financial dealings that were too big a distraction to the job of running the country," he said.Byrne feels that Ahern had ample opportunities to explain his various financial discrepancies but failed to do so. "While Bertie has done some good for Ireland while in office, his time has come to step down," he said.Byrne said that Ahern's replacement Brian Cowen will "have his plate full" when he takes over the position on May 6.Shelia Hurley, a Dublin-born immigrant, was surprised at Ahern's resignation. "When living in Ireland I always gave my vote to Fianna Fail and I was particularly fond of Bertie," said Hurley, who now lives in Queens. "Doesn't every politician have something to hide, isn't that the nature of Irish politics?" she asked. Hurley said it's important people remember "all the great work" Ahern did throughout his time as taoiseach. "(Ahern) had a lot of do with the peace process in the North and people are very quick to forget that it's thanks to Bertie they all have holiday homes in Spain and are driving around in BMW cars." Treasa Goodwin Smyth, originally from Cork, had only positive words to say about Ahern's work during his tenure. "Since he took over as taoiseach Ireland has progressed in many ways. No matter what is said about him he has made a historic contribution in helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland," said Smyth, who added that although Ahern was adamant about stepping down before he reached 60, she didn't expect it to be this soon.An immigrant from Co. Kerry, James Foley, who has lived in New York for more than a decade, feels that Ahern made the right decision in resigning. "Once there is major impropriety by a high ranking government official, the official has to go. Once his former secretary confirmed that she had lodged sterling for him there was no more room to evade and try and hang on," he said. Foley expressed his amazement that Ahern's political party, Fianna Fail, allowed him to remain as taoiseach after last year's general election which happened during the ongoing Mahon Tribunal.A staunch supporter of comprehensive immigration reform and the Irish Lobby for Immigration Reform, Foley feels that Ahern should have "been forced" to resign by Fianna Fail prior to his upcoming address to Congress. "Mr. Ahern should be ashamed of himself for how he let down the undocumented community and the Irish community as a whole over here with his ill informed comments on the undocumented Irish," said Foley, bitterly remembering the remarks Ahern made about the lack of support for a bilateral agreement between Ireland and the U.S. for the Irish undocumented over St. Patrick's Day.Foley added, "How quick he was to forget that Ireland's largest export over the years has been its people and for the taoiseach to turn his back on them because the political environment here on immigration is difficult was very weak."President of Ancient Order of Hibernians Division One in Orange County Brendan O'Dowd felt that there has been a "knee-jerk" reaction to Ahern's statement in Washington within the Irish community. "Although it cannot be defended, I think we need to judge him on his accomplishments in full. It is hard to think of any other Irish taoiseach who has achieved so much for Ireland. Wheeling and dealing is the nature of politics," he said. O'Dowd feels that the Mahon Tribunal has been a clear waste of taxpayers money. "It doesn't matter who you are, if the tribunal come after you, they would find something in your past to be less than proud of," he said.Enda Cormican, a Roscommon man living in upstate New York, said that Ahern's position as leader of Ireland was to set an example and he failed to do so. "Tribunals aside, any politician, especially the Taoiseach, needs to do what's right for the country first, with his own reputation to follow," said Cormican. "Unfortunately Bertie was more concerned about his legacy than the good of the country." Lisa Hanley of Dublin, now residing in Florida, said she is glad that Ahern will have an opportunity to address Congress before he gives up his leadership role. "His achievements for Ireland are tremendous. His work on the Northern Ireland peace treaty, his overall management of the economic boom that Ireland has enjoyed over the last 10 years or so, and his stature on the European and world stage have all combined to earn for Ireland the great honor of addressing Congress, and it is fitting that he should be the one to deliver this address," said Hanley. John, (not his real name), an undocumented Co. Donegal man who has been living in New York for four years, was extremely upset at Ahern's remarks while in Washington in March regarding the undocumented and said that he has more faith in the incoming Taoiseach Brian Cowen. "Bertie really shafted us when he was with Bush last month saying that we were looking for amnesty, which we never did look for by the way. As an undocumented immigrant I will be putting a lot of trust in Mr. Cowen to help us resolve our issue once and for all," said John.
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