DUBLIN - One of the reasons former Ireland prime minister (Taoiseach), Bertie Ahern was chosen to head the Bougainville Referendum Commission is that he has been involved with successful conflict resolution processes in Northern Ireland, Kosovo, Ukraine and with the Basque people of Spain.
Ahern’s parents and grandparents themselves experienced the trauma of revolution and civil war.
His father, Cornelius (Con) Ahern, was involved with the IRA (Irish Republican Army) way back in the 1920’s in the Irish war of independence against the English.
Ireland did gain independence from Great Britain but immediately civil war broke out between the IRA members who accepted the proposed treaty with Britain and those IRA members who opposed it.
Con Ahern, who opposed the treaty, was on the losing side of the civil war, and as a result was imprisoned in the ‘Tintown’ prison camp in Curragh, County Kildare, for some of that time being on a hunger strike.
It seems likely that this family background will help Bertie Ahern understand the complexities involved in the Bougainville issue.
He has emphasised the importance of voters in the Bougainville referendum having a very clear understanding of what they may be voting for.
Hopefully the forthcoming referendum will help to further advance the process of peace and reconciliation.