Dermot Ahern

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Dermot Ahern : biography

20 April 1955 –

Dermot Christopher Ahern (born 20 April 1955) is a former Irish Fianna Fáil politician. He was a Teachta Dála (TD) for the Louth constituency from 1987 to 2011. He also served as Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs (1997–2002), Minister for Communications, Marine and Natural Resources (2002–04), Minister for Foreign Affairs (2004–08) and Minister for Justice and Law Reform (2008–11).

Early political career

Ahern was born into a family that had no association with party politics. He became involved in politics at a young age and became a member of Louth County Council in 1979 as a Fianna Fáil representative. He served on that authority until 1991. Ahern was elected to Dáil Éireann at the 1987 general election and has retained his seat ever since. The following year he was appointed assistant government chief whip by Taoiseach Charles Haughey.

Three years later in 1991 the Minister for Finance, Albert Reynolds, failed in his attempt to oust Haughey as leader. Ahern, who supported Haughey, was rewarded with the post of Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach with special responsibility as Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of Defence. In February 1992 Haughey was forced to resign and Albert Reynolds became party leader and Taoiseach. Ahern became a backbencher for the entire duration of the Fianna Fáil-Labour Party government.

In late 1994 Bertie Ahern (no relation) succeeded Albert Reynolds as leader of Fianna Fáil. Ahern once again returned to the senior ranks of the party becoming chief whip. In 1997 he was sent to London to check out rumours that another senior party member, Ray Burke, had received a payment from Joseph Murphy. The claim was denied and Burke was appointed Minister for Foreign Affairs two days later following the return to power of Fianna Fáil. Burke later served a jail sentence for corruption including the Murphy bribe. Ahern has since taken a stance on the issue of political corruption in Ireland publicly calling for an outright ban of corporate and trade union donations to political parties.

In more recent times Ahern’s religious beliefs have been questioned especially in the way that his religious ideology may influence his political standpoint.

Civil partnership

Ahern was responsible for introducing legislation recognising civil partnerships for same-sex couples. He declared the legislation (Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act 2010), which passed into law in July 2010 as "one of the most important pieces of civil rights legislation to be enacted since independence."

Comments during debate on decriminalisation of Homosexuality

During the debate on decriminalisation of Homosexuality in the Dáil in 1993, he agreed with a statement by Fine Gael TD, Brendan McGahon which reads: "Homosexuality is a departure from normality and while homosexuals deserve our compassion they do not deserve our tolerance" and who described homosexuals as being "like lefthand drivers driving on the right-hand side of the road."

Ahern himself added: "Will we eventually see the day in this country when, as has happened in the USA, homosexuals will seek the right to adopt children? We should think seriously about this possibility". Following his appointment as Minister responsible for equality, Ahern has refused to be drawn on this matter and has not given an answer as to whether he still holds those opinions.

Controversy over Michael McKevitt

Dermot Ahern denied claims that he had made representations to former Minister for Justice Michael McDowell on behalf of Michael McKevitt, who has been convicted of directing terrorism. He said that had merely forwarded an email from McKevitts’ wife, Bernadette Sands McKevitt, who was a constituent in 2004.

Early and private life

Dermot Ahern was born in Dundalk, County Louth, in 1955. He was educated at the Marist College in Dundalk and later attended University College Dublin. Afterwards he studied at the Law Society of Ireland and was admitted as a solicitor. He then started a successful career as a solicitor.