Friday 30 September 2016

Exclusive: Bertie Ahern - I’ll return to politics if there’s a vote for Ireland to leave EU

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

Published 24/06/2016 | 10:24

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will get back into politics to campaign for a Remain if a campaign for Ireland to leave the EU starts to gain momentum.

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Mr Ahern said he is “sad and disappointed” by “a victory for Nigel Farage”.

On a special edition of Independent.ie’s ‘Floating Voter’ podcast, the ex-Fianna Fáil leader said Britain and Ireland face major challenges on the back of the Brexit result.

Read more: British Prime Minister Dave Cameron announces he is to resign after Brexit result

In conversation with INM’s Kevin Doyle, Dearbhail McDonald, Brendan Keenan and economist Susan Hayes Culleton, Mr Ahern also revealed:

* He does not believe there should be a vote for a united Ireland

* Scotland will get a second independence referendum by May

* And Tony Blair had promised a Brexit referendum but never intended to hold one

Mr Ahern said he does not believe that there is the political will for a similar referendum in Ireland, but added:  “Certainly if that happens I’ll come back into politics and start canvassing against it.”

Read more: Britain votes to leave in biggest blow to EU since WWII, unleashing global turmoil

A supporter of the Stronger In campaign reacts after hearing results in the EU referendum at London's Royal Festival Hall. Rob Stothard/PA Wire
A supporter of the Stronger In campaign reacts after hearing results in the EU referendum at London's Royal Festival Hall. Rob Stothard/PA Wire
The rising sun illuminates the Houses of Parliament in London after voters in the referendum backed the campaign for the UK to leave the EU. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
A general view of the Houses of Parliament seen from the Royal Festival Hall. Rob Stothard/PA Wire
Supporters of the Stronger In campaign react after hearing results in the EU referendum at London's Royal Festival Hall. Rob Stothard/PA Wire
Supporters of the Stronger In campaign react after hearing results in the EU referendum at London's Royal Festival Hall. Rob Stothard/PA Wire
Supporters of the Stronger In campaign react after hearing results in the EU referendum at London's Royal Festival Hall. Rob Stothard/PA Wire
DUP MLA Sammy Wilson (second from right) celebrates with Leave supporters at the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast, after the Leave campaign claimed victory in the EU referendum. Liam McBurney/PA Wire
UKIP Leader Nigel Farage at the Leave.EU party in London where he claimed victory for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
UKIP Leader Nigel Farage at the Leave.EU party in London where he claimed victory for the Leave campaign in the EU referendum. Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire
Leave supporters cheer results at a Leave.eu party after polling stations closed in the Referendum on the European Union in London, Britain, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Toby Melville TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Remain supporters celebrate the result during the EU Referendum count for Westminster and the City of London at the Lindley Hall, Royal Horticultural Halls, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Friday June 24, 2016. See PA story POLITICS EU. Photo credit should read: Anthony Devlin/PA Wire
Paul Nuttall of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) reacts as votes are counted for the EU referendum, in Manchester, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Steven Woolfe of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) smiles as votes are counted for the EU referendum, in Manchester, Britain June 24, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Yates
Remain supporters celebrate the result during the EU Referendum count for Westminster and the City of London at the Lindley Hall, Royal Horticultural Halls, London. Anthony Devlin/PA Wire

He was heavily critical of UKIP leader Nigel Farage and former Mayor of London Boris Johnson whom he accused of not understanding the consequences of the Leave campaign.

“Farage and Johnson and others believe they’ll just go over to Brussels and get a deal that takes out everything they don’t like about Britain and keep everything they like.”

But he added that there won’t be “a happy every after”.

I wish them well because that’s not going to happen”.

Bertie Ahern, David Cameron's resignation speech, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage
Bertie Ahern, David Cameron's resignation speech, Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage

Mr Ahern describe British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn’s contribution in recent weeks as an “energetic non-campaign”.

Read more: Sinead Ryan: Five ways Ireland will be poorer following the British decision to exit the EU

On the idea that Northern Irish votes should now be offered a referendum on leaving the UK and joining the Republic, Mr Ahern said the time was not right.

“I’m probably more than anybody else the one that has held it back this long. You’ll see a big push for it now.

“ You’re not going to see it happen this year but there’ll be a big push for it. I would rather it not, but sometime it’s going to happen. The reason I didn’t want it is that the result is obvious,” he said.

Mr Ahern also expressed concern that some dissidents were doing “the biggest canvass” for a Brexit.

Read more: All you need to know: Britain is leaving the EU - what happens next?

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s First Secretary Theresa Villiers has ruled out the possibility of a referendum on a united Ireland.

Responding to calls for a boarder poll on the back of the Brexit results, Ms Villiers said the only that would happen is if she formed the view that a majority wanted to leave the UK.

“Every poll and piece of research has shown again and again the majority of people in Northern Ireland support the Good Friday Agreement, the institutions it established and hence Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom,” she said.

Ms Villiers also hit back at calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence.

“I don’t believe the United Kingdom is going to break up. They voted to stay within the United Kingdom.

“The question of Scottish separation is settled,” she said.

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