herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Bertie offers his negotiating skills for free in Ukraine

Bertie Ahern. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Bertie Ahern. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is receiving "not a tosser" for his role in trying to achieve a peace agreement in Ukraine.

Mr Ahern has been involved in secret negotiations for a number of weeks and was in Vienna preparing for the talks when the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 was shot down.

The former Fianna Fail leader is working with an organisation founded by the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Martti Ahtisaari.

Crisis Management Initiative (CMI) is a not-for-profit conflict resolution organisation and aside from his travel costs, Mr Ahern receives no payment for his work.

Asked was he paid anything, the former Taoiseach said: "Not a tosser. They pay for your flights, cars and hotel but if you have a drink in the bar you pay for it yourself."

Last week he was in Kiev and expects to return to Ukraine this week.

So far this month Mr Ahern has made two trips for talks aimed at ending the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In one visit he was involved in negotiations with the leaders of last spring's demonstration in Maidan, where 82 people were killed in the town's square.

"I walked freely around Maidan, which is spooky because it's very quiet and the grottos and shrines [erected in memory of the dead] are still there since February," said Mr Ahern.

However, in spite of his work he is not convinced of a peaceful resolution in Ukraine in the near future and made comparison with how the peace talks worked out in Northern Ireland.

"The trouble there [eastern Ukraine] has been going on for 20 years. It's been building.

"In the later years of the Anglo-Irish peace process, the British government was working with the Irish government and trying to find a resolution but the Russians are not doing that [in Ukraine]," said the former Taoiseach.

Mr Ahern told a newspaper that he is joined in the talks with two other well-known figures.

However, CMI operates under the Chatham House rule, which ensures the anonymity of those involved in the talks.

The organisation founded by Mr Ahtisaari, who is also a former president of Finland, receives funding from three governments, including the Irish.

It also gets funding from the European Commission.

jfegan@herald.ie

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