Page last updated at 12:42 GMT, Wednesday, 2 April 2008 13:42 UK

Shrewd Ahern helped thaw relations

By Mark Devenport
BBC NI political editor

Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair, pictured in 2000
Bertie Ahern and Tony Blair were friendlier than previous premiers

Bertie Ahern will be remembered as the taoiseach who played a vital role in negotiating both the Good Friday Agreement and last year's return of devolution to Stormont.

A skilled negotiator since his days as the Irish Minister for Labour, Mr Ahern brought a shrewd eye for a deal to the peace process.

He forged a remarkable partnership with Tony Blair which meant that, in contrast to many previous occasions, London and Dublin tended to present a common front on contentious issues.

Mr Ahern returned from his mother's funeral to take part in the round-the-clock talks that led to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Ian Paisley and Bertie Ahern
Ian Paisley and Bertie Ahern held unprecedented meetings
Then, when the DUP became the dominant unionist party, he broke through Ian Paisley's traditional enmity for Irish leaders.

The two men held warm meetings both at the site of the battle of the Boyne and when the DUP leader invited Mr Ahern to his North Antrim constituency earlier this year.

Now both leaders, north and south, are working their notice as they have both confirmed they will stand down in May.




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