FORMER TAOISEACH BERTIE Ahern has received an award in the Basque Country for the part he played in ending the violent campaign of terrorist group ETA.
Ahern, who attended a key conference to move the region’s peace process forward in October 2011, was honoured by the Sabino Arana Foundation at a ceremony yesterday afternoon.
Each year the Foundation recognises people from various walks of life for their contributions to the Basque Country. Ahern was named as a recipient this year for his peace work, just months after ETA announced a permanent ceasefire.
In his acceptance speech, the former leader of Fianna Fáil acknowledged the other mediators at the International Peace Conference.
The meetings were sponsored various human rights and conflict resolution groups and attended by Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams, Tony Blair’s chief of staff Jonathan Powell and former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Following the conference, ETA announced it would cease all bombings and shoots, bringing a “definitive cessation” to its violent campaign which has defined a 40-year-old conflict between the Basque separatists and Spanish government.
Northern Ireland was used as a model on which to build a successful peace process in the region and both Adams and Ahern had been involved in talks.
Ahern, in particular, has been praised for the key role he played in bringing an end to ETA’s violence.
At the 2011 conference he led the delegation in calling for a permanent ceasefire from the group, which occurred just days later.
At the time, he said the group came to the Basque Country to offer ideas “drawn from our own experiences of resolving long conflicts that afflicted our own societies and peoples”.
The awards were presented at a ceremony at Teatro Arriaga opera house in Bilbao yesterday. Among the other recipients were the University of Deusto, the Bilbao Chamber of Commerce, bodyboarder Eunate Aguirre, Professor Maite Lafourcade and the Basque company CAF.
A spokesperson from the Office of Bertie Ahern said that the former leader remains in constant contact with various parties in the area.