DUBLIN — Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced yesterday that he will step down next month after accusations of corruption. Ireland achieved record economic growth and peace with Northern Ireland during Mr. Ahern’s 11-year tenure, but an ongoing inquest into the prime minister’s personal finances has undermined his record. When Mr. Ahern became prime minister in 1997, Ireland was three years into a period of soaring economic growth and employment. One year later, Mr. Ahern left his mother’s funeral to finalize Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement. Tony Blair, the British prime minister at the time, praised Mr. Ahern’s role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. “He will always be remembered … for transforming relations between Britain and the Irish Republic,” Mr. Blair said.
DUBLIN — Ireland’s Prime Minister Bertie Ahern this morning announced his resignation after 11 years in power, Mr. Ahern’s tenure saw Ireland achieve record economic growth, with Northern Ireland at peace. However, a recent inquest into Ahern’s personal finances saw questions raised over almost $781,000 in payments. Ahern will formally step down on May 6, after addressing Congress in Washington and receiving the Japanese prime minister in Dublin. “I have done no wrong and wronged no one,” said a visibly emotional Ahern at a press conference on the steps outside Dublin’s government buildings this morning. He said he had “never done anything to corrupt my office.”
TIRANA — “It has been a long time coming, but Albania is ready to rejoin the West. In truth and in spirit, it never left,” Tirana’s Catholic Archbishop Rrok Krol Mirdita said in an interview. Muslims are the majority, but Albania is a country split four ways confessionally — between Sunni Muslims, Sufi Muslim Bektashis, Catholics and Greek Orthodox. There’s two ways tribal split as well, with northern Ghegs and southern Tosks making up most of the country’s roughly 3 million population. But all Albanians now seem to be pulling one way politically after the recent declaration of independence by Kosovo, where the majority of the population is Albanian. A Kosovar delegation visited recently to discuss forming a common market between the two states. Despite Kosovo’s supervised independence precluding unification with Albania, the latter”s Minister for Economy and Energy, Genc Ruli, stated that a free Kosovo “paved the way for a common market […] and coordination of economic policies with Albania.”
DUBLIN — Now almost 82, the long-time Ulster Protestant firebrand frontman Ian Paisley looks set to depart his formerly strife-torn region’s political scene. His son, Ian Paisley Jr, formally resigned his Belfast ministerial post late last week, after a drip-fed series of revelations showed the younger Paisley as too close to a property developer for the liking of rival politicians. With his father at his side, Paisley Jr said he was proud to have served in the power-sharing executive. “I leave with high hopes, good spirit, deep humility and with gratefulness in my heart,” he said. Ian Paisley paid tribute to his son’s contribution to government. “I would just like to say, as the first minister, a word of thanks […] to my son Ian for the hard work he did while he was in office.”
PRISTINA — A recent survey discussed in the leftist Der Spiegel pointed out that a Saudi-funded mosque had boosted the appeal of a more traditional Islam in that secularized former Yugoslav republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina which the opponents of Kosovo’s independence may look at with a jaundiced eye. For now, however, the denim-and-leather-clad Kosovars see things differently. As employment conditions become difficult in Kosovo, many job-seekers see their future with the EU. Amira Rama, 23, recently got engaged. She said, “We want it to be easier to travel to the West for jobs — now it is too difficult.”
PRISTINA — To a sea of Albanian and American flags, Prime Minister Hasim Thaci called the republic of Kosovo into being last Sunday week, setting off a diplomatic firestorm, raising Russian-backed Serbian ire and sparking fears that minority ethnic groups from Spain to China would have a new basis for resistance. Kosovo can draw from examples elsewhere, as well as set what Sri Lanka described as “an unmanageable precedent.”