Irish Republican News · May 21, 2007
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Ahern makes landmark speech at Westminster

The restoration of power-sharing in Belfast marks the dawning of a new era for the island of Ireland and for Anglo-Irish relations, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern told British parliamentarians last week.

Mr Ahern became the first Irish head of government to speak at the Palace of Westminster as he addressed a joint session of both Houses of Parliament.

Among those present were British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whom the taoiseach hailed as “a true friend of Ireland [who] has an honoured place in Irish hearts and in Irish history” and his predecessor Sir John Major, whom he praised for the “courageous early steps” he took in the peace process.

Mr Ahern was himself praised by the prime minister, who told MPs and peers: “The man we honour this afternoon has been at the heart of the search for a political settlement in Northern Ireland for more than a decade.”

Addressing the Houses is considered a major honour and since 1939 has been bestowed on only 31 world leaders.

Mr Ahern said that, after centuries characterised by division, conflict and resistance, this must be the last generation to feel the pain and anger of old quarrels.

He looked ahead to a partnership of peace between Britain and Ireland which he said would bring economic growth and prosperity both north and south of the border.

“Ireland’s hour has come. It came, not as victory or defeat but as a shared future for all,” he told the gathering of MPs and peers.

“Solidarity has made us stronger. Reconciliation has brought us closer.

“Ireland’s hour has come - a time of peace, of prosperity, of old values and new beginnings. This is the great lesson and the great gift of Irish history. This is what Ireland can give to the world.”

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© 2007 Irish Republican News