Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern to lecture, receive honorary degree at Fairfield University


Image: Bertie AhernBertie Ahern, Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the Republic of Ireland, will deliver the annual William and Mary Stack Lecture in Irish History and Culture at Fairfield University on Thursday, Sept. 25, at 7:30 p.m. Ahern, who will also receive an honorary Doctor of Laws degree, will present "Ireland Today: Building on Peace" at the Regina A. Quick Center for the Arts.

Ahern, the tenth Taoiseach of Ireland, has had a 30-year career in politics and government. As his country's leader, he has been instrumental in the difficult peace process in Northern Ireland, playing an important role in the 1998 Good Friday Accord and in the modernization of the Irish economy.

"It is a particular honor to have Mr. Ahern deliver the Stack Lecture since he has played and continues to play such an important and constructive role in the peace process," said William M. Stack of New Canaan, who established the program in memory of his father and to honor his mother.

Born in 1951, Ahern was brought up in a working-class Dublin suburb by two politically minded parents. His father fought in the war of independence and then became a staunch leader of Fianna Fáil, the party now led by his son. His mother, who was raised in Cork, ran his constituency office for several years.

Ahern and his brother Noel, both members of the Irish Parliament, the Dáil, shared their parents' interest in politics. After studying accounting at University College, Dublin, Bertie Ahern was elected to the Dáil in 1977 and he has represented Dublin Central since 1981. Ahern was a member of the Dublin City Council from 1978 to 1988, serving as Lord Mayor in 1986-87.

Ahern has held many important positions in both his party and in national government. He served as Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Minister of Labour, Minister of Finance, and Deputy Prime Minister before being elected Taoiseach in 1997. In 2002, Ahern was re-elected following a general election that saw his party return to power in coalition with the Progressive Democrats. It was the first time an outgoing government was re-elected since 1969.

Along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Ahern has been a tireless worker in the ongoing struggle for peace in Northern Ireland. In 1998, the two prime ministers, political leaders in Northern Ireland and U.S. President Bill Clinton, played a major role in producing the Good Friday Accord, an attempt to stabilize the region. Ahern encouraged Nationalist and Republican leaders in the North to engage in the peace process and, in a show of good faith to Unionists and Loyalists, he convinced voters in the Republic of Ireland to give up the constitutional claim to Northern Ireland.

Since 1998, Ahern has worked to give effect to all of the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement and to overcome the problems that have arisen in implementing some aspects of this hugely ambitious and far-reaching Accord.

Ahern and his government have a remarkable record of success in developing the Irish economy. In recent years Ireland has registered the highest levels of economic growth in the European Union. Ahern has been a strong advocate of Ireland's unique partnership agreements between the government and key stakeholders in Ireland, including unions and employers organizations. These partnership agreements have made a significant contribution to Ireland's economic success.

This summer, as Ireland hosted the 2003 Special Olympics World Games, Ahern announced new legislative, educational and financial support for people with disabilities.

Under Ahern's guidance Ireland is playing a significant role in providing assistance to developing countries. In August, he and U2 frontman Bono launched the Human Development Report 2003, a plan to tackle global poverty and aid poorer countries. The report pinpoints such problems as inadequate access to clean water, food shortages, rampant HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis and poor schools, healthcare and environmental issues. The United Nations Development Program issues the annual report and hopes to achieve its goals by 2015.

Ireland, under the leadership of Taoiseach Ahern, will take over the presidency of the European Union in January 2004.

The lecture is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. To reserve seats, call the Quick Center box office at (203) 254-4010 or toll free at 1-877-ARTS-396. For more information, visit the website, www.quickcenter.com.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on September 3, 2003

Vol. 36, No. 25