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Bertie Ahern warns that compromise on Irish border will be difficult

By Jon Vale

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has warned there is no easy solution to resolving the border issue between the north and south of Ireland after the UK leaves the EU.

Mr Ahern also said that now was not the time for a border poll on a united Ireland, saying the country still had a "divided society".

One of the key players in the Good Friday Agreement also told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that Brexit "was creating more problems than we would have liked", adding that he did not see where a compromise solution could be found between all the different institutions.

Mr Ahern said resolving the border issue was "crucial" for Ireland in terms of jobs, investment and employment.

He added that there was a will from all parties to find a solution.

He said: "Nobody has yet put a solution that does not mean Customs checks.

"You can have all the technology you like, but there doesn't seem to be any easy solution."

Mr Ahern, who left office in 2008, told the programme that now was not the time for a border referendum.

"There still is a divided society, the institutions are not operational, and the big issue for the Irish and the UK Government on the other side of June 8 is to try to help to broker a deal to get the institutions back up and running," he said.

"Certainly, having a border poll in the foreseeable future will not help that process."

He went on to say the general election was "huge" for the Republic, given the implications it could have for Brexit and restoring devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Mr Ahern said: "Brexit is creating more problems than we would have liked to have.

"But we're realists. The fact is people voted and now we have to find solutions.

"I spent my life involved in negotiations but normally you can see where the compromise lies.

"This time it's complicated because you have the EU, you have the UK Government, you have the Irish Government, you have Northern Ireland.

"It is tricky to say the least and the compromise and the solution and the way forward are not easy."

This week EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier will be visiting the Republic and will visit the border to better understand the risks to Europe's only land frontier with the UK.

Mr Barnier will also address a joint sitting of the Dail - a privilege normally only afforded to visiting Heads of State such as Nelson Mandela, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan and John F Kennedy.

Writing in today's Belfast Telegraph, Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan said he would be taking Mr Barnier to the border "to see first-hand the unique situation here on the island of Ireland and the potential impact on people's daily lives".

"During his visit, I will be ensuring that there is a good understanding of the realities for people who live on one side of the border and work on the other," he writes.

"Having done the groundwork to ensure that the unique situation in Ireland is a shared priority for the European Union as a whole, we must now begin to seek solutions as part of the negotiations between the EU and the UK."

by john vale

Belfast Telegraph

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