New Irish premier makes peace in Ulster top priority

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Bertie Ahern marked his election as Taoiseach last night with a pledge to make bringing peace to Ulster the central aim for his government. Mr Ahern, who has a slim majority in the Dail backed by a centre-right coalition of his Fianna Fail party and its Progressive Democrat ally and three independents, said he looked forward to making Northern Ireland "a kinder and gentler place".

He achieved just enough support to avoid dependence on the vote of Sinn Fein's sole TD (MP), Caoimhghin O'Caolain, but the narrow majority guarantees a nervous term of office. He received 85 votes from the 166-seat chamber with 78 against. The outgoing premier, John Bruton, received 75 votes.