Article by Oral Çalışlar ‘Bertie in Dublin like an ordinary citizen…’

The following article published in Posta has been written by Oral Çalışlar following DPI’s CSV, ‘Civil Society’s Priorities for Peace: A Lesson Sharing Visit’ in Dublin, between 3 – 6 December 2021.

I would like to continue to convey my impressions after an intense three-day trip to Ireland organized by DPI (Democratic Progress Institute). Most of the territory of the Isle of Ireland, which is situated in the west of England, belongs to the Republic of Ireland. It has a population of almost 5 million. In the Northern part, it is under British rule with a population of 1.8 million. The Republic of Ireland, whose capital is Dublin, also known as James Joyce’s birthplace, declared its independence in 1922 at the end of the uprisings which took place at the beginning of the 20th century. Yet, the demands of independence and sovereignty remained from the Catholic Irish in the North. Protestant England relied on the Protestant Irish in that region. The Catholic Irish, who wanted freedom, resorted to violence against the British.

Independent Ireland: Bertie Ahern (official name: Bartholomew Ahern) was elected MP in the Assembly of the Republic of Ireland in 1977, at the age of 26. Being a minister for 31 years and later as prime minister, he was instrumental in the country’s fate until 2008. He is known for his long and strenuous efforts to disarm the IRA, as he led the historic peace process in Northern Ireland with the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. In many conflict-ridden countries, we have seen that some politicians can achieve successful results in resolving conflicts by risking their futures. For example, we had the opportunity to observe the success of politicians who took risks in South Africa, Colombia and many other conflicts of the like. At the beginning of this article, I wanted to share the example of Bertie Ahern. As one of the most influential politicians in Ireland for 31 years, Ahern had successfully managed the IRA’s disarmament. Ireland is one of the wealthiest countries in the world with a per capita income of around 84 thousand dollars as of 2020. Considering that we earn 6-7 thousand dollars per capita in Turkey, their amount of wealth can be understood. We had many meetings with Bertie in Turkey and Ireland, in which he shared his experiences with us. In our last meeting, he advised us not to lose our hope for a solution. He reminded us that new opportunities could arise even in the most challenging times. He walked into the hotel like an ordinary person. When he arrived, he greeted others, and there were no extraordinary measures. No guards were jumping in front of the cars and preventing people from entering the hotel. As far as I could see, he didn’t even have any personal protection. When he finished his speech, we had a coffee together, he put on his overcoat and hat. He walked away, hands in pockets, through the wide streets of Dublin.