Monday 21 October 2019

Bertie Ahern warns against trying to force a border poll in Northern Ireland

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern arrives to address the Seanad Select Committee on Brexit at Leinster House earlier this month Photo: Tom Burke
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern arrives to address the Seanad Select Committee on Brexit at Leinster House earlier this month Photo: Tom Burke
Laura Larkin

Laura Larkin

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has cautioned against any move to 'force' a border poll a day after EU leaders recognised that Ireland should have a special status ahead of the upcoming Brexit negotiations.

The ex-Fianna Fáil leader was speaking to Ivan Yates on his Newstalk radio show this afternoon.

Mr Ahern also weighed in on the Brexit negotiation stance adopted by EU leaders in Brussels on Saturday, which positioned Ireland as one of the red-line issues in the negotiations.

The Irish Government welcomed the fact the move and the inclusion of the reference to Ireland.

However, echoing the sentiment of some commentators, Mr Ahern said the inclusion of a commitment to recognise the Good Friday agreement was a given.

"The fact that all of Europe re-iterate that the Good Friday Agreement is an international agreement... I'd be very disappointed if any of them said it wasn't.

"No it's not [a big deal]. It's a fact of life," he said.

"The idea of a border poll.... was put there when I was conceding articles two and three of the constitution and we were giving up the territorial right of the north and I wanted to copper-fasten in that if the day came where on the principle of consent people in the north - of all traditions - voted for a united Ireland then we would have an agreement on that," he said.

"It was not for some kind of a sectarian vote or a day that the nationalists and Republicans could outvote the unionists and loyalists... if you want trouble again in the north play that game. It's a dangerous game,"," he said.

He said the Custom's Union, the right of citizens of Northern Ireland to rejoin the EU in the event of a border poll, the right of UK and Irish citizens to work in each other's countries and the maintenance of the common travel areas are all areas where working papers should be considered he said.

He also said that it was unlikely his former party would consider entering a coalition with Sinn Féin.

But suggested that deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald taking over the leadership role in the party might help.

That could change the game," he said.

"I don't think that can just happen, where Mary Lou comes in and then all of a sudden it changes - I think she would have to be there for a period

The former TD also said he would have liked to do a deal with Labour while he was in office.

On the issue of his leaving Fianna Fáil he said he felt he had been treated badly and said it was the "easy cop-out".

However, the 66-year-old, ruled out a return to the party which he spent 44-years as an active member.

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