Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland recognized the accomplishments of former Irish Prime Minister Bartholomew “Bertie” Ahern on Friday, February 20, during the annual George Washington’s Birthday Convocation.
Ahern was awarded an honorary degree from the school, which was founded in 1782 with George Washington as a patron and member of the Board of Visitors and Governors.
Former Washington College president Mitchell B. Reiss, who served as U.S. Special Envoy to the Northern Ireland Peace Process from 2003 to 2007, introduced Mr. Ahern, and Ireland’s Ambassador to the U.S., Anne Anderson, was in the audience.
A savvy politician and statesman known for his outstanding negotiation skills, Ahern led Ireland’s government for more than a decade beginning in 1997. He is best known internationally for helping to negotiate the historic Good Friday Agreement that set Northern Ireland on a path out of the sectarian conflict known as “The Troubles.”
Bertie Ahern was first elected to the Irish parliament in 1977 as a member of the Fianna Fáil party to represent a section of his native Dublin, a city he would also serve briefly as Lord Mayor. After holding national ministerial positions in several Fianna Fáil administrations, he was elected Taoiseach, or Prime Minister, at age 45. Elected to serve two more consecutive terms, he became Ireland’s second longest serving prime minister.
Early in his first term he negotiated with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and leaders of political parties in Northern Ireland, including Sinn Féin, to end “The Troubles.” Their landmark agreement, signed on Good Friday of 1998, laid the groundwork for peace and shared governance.
First as Minister of Finance and then as Taoiseach, Ahern helped shape a robust Irish economy with unprecedented growth and rising prosperity that became known around the world as the Celtic Tiger. He also led the European Council during the six-month period when it welcomed eight new countries from Eastern Europe.
Since leaving office in 2008, Ahern has been active in numerous groups that focus on conflict resolution, negotiation, and diplomacy.