Ireland - Leadership

Ahern came to power supported in the Dail by two political parties and a handful of independents as his own party did not receive a numerical majority. Keeping this governing coalition together for a full five-year term may not be an easy task. However, Ireland has had minority governments in the past that have worked very well. Moreover, Ahern is regarded as an able politician. He is more popular than his own party and has maintained high approval ratings. He is considered to be very personable. Ahern is noted for his abilities as a conciliator and a negotiator, liking to hear all shades of opinion before making decisions. Yet once he does make a decision, he shows what those who know him call a steely resolve.

Ahern has displayed this resolve in several areas. During the campaign and early in his term, he spoke of the need to crack down on crime, especially on drug-related violent crime, which has increasingly plagued Ireland in the past few years. Promoting a zero-tolerance policy, Ahern has withstood criticism, saying that he rejects the notion that there can be an acceptable or tolerable level of crime. Ahern has also set very clear terms for dealing with the IRA. Though soon after his election a ceasefire was declared, Ahern had previously stated that he would refuse to allow Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA, to have any role in negotiations until the IRA refrained from violence. In spite of his precarious parliamentary position, few believe that Ahern will be swayed in negotiations by threats from strongly nationalist deputies on whom he has to rely for votes.

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