Irish politician, Taoiseach (prime minister) 1997-2008, leader of Fianna Fáil 1994-2008. He served three successive terms as prime minister to become Ireland's longest serving Taoiseach since Eamon de Valera. After the May 1997 election he formed a minority coalition government with the Progressive Democrats as Ireland's youngest Taoiseach. His promotion of peace negotiations culminated in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between Northern Ireland's contending parties, which received 94% backing in a referendum in the Irish Republic in May 1998. Under Ahern, the Irish economy expanded and living standards improved, paving the way for the coalition's re-election in 2002 and 2007. In his third term he was dogged by enquiries into his finances by a tribunal investigating planning corruption in the 1990s and he decided to resign as Taoiseach and party leader in May 2008.
He was elected to parliament (Dáil) in 1977 and was minister of state in the Department of Taoiseach and Defence, 1982, in Charles Haughey's short-lived minority government. When Fianna Fáil returned to power, he was minister for labour 1987-91 and minister for finance 1991-94. Meanwhile Albert Reynolds had taken over the Fianna Fáil leadership and formed successive coalitions with the Progressive Democrats and Labour. In 1994 Reynolds lost Labour support and was forced to resign. He also surrendered the Fianna Fáil leadership and Ahern was elected as his successor. As prime minister, Ahern became a close ally of British prime minister Tony Blair and US president George W Bush. Ireland entered into NATO's Partnership for Peace without a referendum. And the Ahern government faced fierce domestic criticism when it emerged, in 2003, that US air force troop carriers, en route to Iraq, had been allowed to refuel at Shannon airport, despite strong public opposition to the US invasion of Iraq.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, into a working-class republican nationalist family, his father had fought in the 1919-21 war of independence from Britain and subsequent civil war and supported Eamon de Valera and was a member of the IRA. Ahern was educated at the College of Commerce and University College, Dublin, and qualified and practised as an accountant before becoming active in politics. In 1979 he started serving on Dublin City Council, becoming Lord Mayor 1986-97.
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