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51% majority not enough for Irish unity: Ahern

By Laurence White

A united Ireland could not be achieved by a simple majority poll in favour of constitutional change, according to former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern.

In a previously unpublished interview, carried in today's Belfast Telegraph, Mr Ahern said a narrow 50% plus one in favour of unification would not work.

He argued that “a sizeable amount of people” north and south would be required to move to a united Ireland.

“The only way it can be done is if there’s a sizeable amount of people on the island of Ireland, North and South, believe this is the way forward,” he said.

“Fifty per cent plus one is not the way to do it. That would be a divisive thing to do. There’s no point having votes to find out that you’re 1 percent short or 1 percent over. That’s not the way to do it.”

The former Taoiseach’s views on Irish unity are contained in a lengthy interview conducted by Irish Times London Editor Frank Millar shortly after Mr Ahern left office in May this year.

However, in Dublin this week Mr Ahern stressed the unification of Ireland remains an “imperative” and not “an empty aspiration”.

He added: “I believe that the sooner we engage in the process of addressing Irish unity, in all its complexities, with all of its challenges, and the many opportunities it will present, the sooner the reality will occur.”

In Mr Millar’s book, ‘Northern Ireland: A Triumph of Politics”, Mr Ahern also remains upbeat about the survival of the power-sharing arrangement at Stormont and declares his confidence that First Minister Peter Robinson will be able to “square the circle” in leading a Democratic Unionist Party that still defines itself in terms of “smashing Sinn Fein”.

As the Executive gets back to work today after the 154-day deadlock between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the devolution of policing and justice powers, Mr Ahern repeated his understanding that Sinn Fein had “a cast iron guarantee” over the original May 1 deadline for achieving the return of the powers to local politicians.

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