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Honoring Irish Peacemaker Bertie Ahern
CHESTERTOWN, MD–Former Prime Minister of Ireland Bertie Ahern received an honorary degree, in recognition of his key role in bringing peace and shared governance to Northern Ireland, during George Washington’s Birthday Convocation, held Feb. 20 at Washington College. A savvy politician and statesman known for his outstanding negotiating 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.”
At the Convocation ceremony, Ahern was introduced by former Washington College president Mitchell B. Reiss, who worked with him and other Irish and British political leaders while serving as U.S. Special Envoy to the Northern Ireland Peace Process from 2003 to 2007. Reiss called Ahern a “true public servant” and paid tribute to the steely determination he brought to the peace process that ended the funerals and made peace.
Ahern, in turn, praised Reiss as an unsung hero for his role as an intermediary in negotiations that hammered out the tough details of shared governance. “He took what in Ireland we call ‘a dog’s abuse’ from all sides,” he said. “But he is a tall man with broad shoulders, and he took it and gave it back as necessary.” The former Prime Minister also spoke of the close relationship between his country and the United States, quoting George Washington’s tribute to the Irish for their friendship and support during the American Revolution.