Article by Oral Çalışlar ‘The politician who changed the fate of Ireland: Bertie Ahern’

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

We are in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. We are at the meeting entitled, ‘Civil Society’s Priorities for Peace: A Lesson Sharing Visit’, which we have not been able to conduct face-to-face for two years due to the pandemic. Our first speaker is Kerim Yıldız, Chief Executive Officer of DPI. He gives a short keynote speech. Then comes Bertie Ahern, who has left his mark on Irish politics. Bertie was a Member of Parliament in 1977 at the age of 26, minister in Irish governments for 15 years from 1982 to 1997, and then Prime Minister of Ireland for 11 consecutive years. I will refer to him as Bertie because we have become friends after our countless encounters. Bertie is one of the architects of the process that enabled the IRA to lay down its arms by signing the famous Good Friday Agreement with British Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2006.

Silencing the guns: The Good Friday agreement refers to the beginning of the Irish peace process, leading up to the IRA’s disarmament. Indeed, putting an end to armed violence has proven to be the most challenging aspect during conflict. In the case of the Irish conflict, it is Bertie who carried out this task, which meant he had to put himself under a number of risks. Though negotiations can completely break down at times and oftentimes there is no hope, it is essential to remain determined in order to start over in such situations of despair. Until recently, the solution process in Turkey ended in disappointment, and that issue was put aside. However, Kurdish votes came back to the table as an important element in the election agenda. In this environment, the hope of a new peace process arose again. Relating to the Irish experiment, Bertie pointed to the necessity of keeping hope in the most desperate times. As Bertie emphasised when referring to the Irish case, it is crucial to stay hopeful even in the most desperate times.

Catholics, Protestants: Meanwhile, he drew attention to important elements making up the structure of Ireland and the root of the conflict. Catholic Irish rebelled to gain independence from Protestant England, and in 1921 the present-day Republic of Ireland was established. However, Northern Ireland remained under British rule. So, Ireland was divided in two. Tensions never ceased within Northern Ireland, where the Protestant Irish, called Royalists or Unionists, chose to remain under British rule. The Irish nationalist and independence movement’s accumulated anger eventually gave birth to the IRA. The weapons were laid down at the end of a great number of assassinations, massacres, bombings, and overall suffering. What about the Irish demand for independence? It still stands. Though violence has ceased, two separate Irelands remain, divided by the British. Moreover, in Northern Ireland, where elections will be held in the upcoming days, Sinn Fein, IRA’s legal representative, seems to become the winning party. In other words, it is likely to form the government and run the state. Bertie concluded by saying: ‘I am also an Irish nationalist. That’s why I wanted the guns to be silent the most. There are problems, but I am happy.’