Belfast Telegraph

Ahern hits out at hardline Brexiteers who risk damaging peace deal

By Shona Murray

Hardline Brexiteers represent a bigger threat to stability in Northern Ireland than the return of paramilitaries, Bertie Ahern has said.

The former Taoiseach, an architect of the Good Friday Agreement, was speaking ahead of its 20th anniversary next Tuesday.

He sees the milestone as a "commemoration rather than a celebration", with it coming amid the impasse at Stormont and great uncertainty around Brexit.

Mr Ahern fears people like Jacob Rees-Mogg, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson, who are pushing for a hard Brexit, risk doing serious damage to the Agreement.

He said: "They've found out that the Good Friday Agreement is a threat to Brexit, so I worry more about those guys and what they're willing to do in the name of ideology, as opposed to a return to the armed groups and gangs. These people don't know anything about Ireland and care less."

Mr Ahern "thinks they're wrong" to consider risking the Agreement for the sake of having their hard Brexit. "I think it's dangerous," he said.

He also recalled the tense days before the Agreement was signed, when he was battling personal grief.

"George Mitchell was panicking. Mitchell doesn't panic. Tony Blair was getting frustrated. I was down here trying to organise my mam's funeral; listening to them on the phone. Then of course, the Shinners came in with 70 items and questions at 11 o'clock at night on the Thursday.

"Everything but the kitchen sink was on it. (Secretary of State for Northern Ireland) Mo Mowlam went ballistic. She went bananas. Rightly so," he recalls, adding: "In fairness to Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness and the rest of Sinn Fein, they had to rein in the IRA; they had to fight the case for peace and decommissioning."

The transfer and licensed release of prisoners wasn't resolved until 4am on Good Friday.

Belfast Telegraph

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