Belfast Telegraph

Brexit: Border poll is now likely within a decade, says ex-Taoiseach Ahern

Comments: Bertie Ahern
Comments: Bertie Ahern

By Kevin Doyle

A border poll is now likely within the next 10 years if political parties can learn to work together, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

Mr Ahern, who was a key architect of the Good Friday Agreement, said those involved in the 1998 negotiations believed a unity referendum would have been held by now.

However, a lack of political stability in the region has meant the issue has never really worked its way onto the agenda.

"Somewhere in the next decade you'll probably see a border poll," Mr Ahern said.

"You probably would have had a border poll now if you had a stable Executive and Assembly working. You're not going to get any border poll as long you've no Executive working."

He said Sinn Fein had let people who want a united Ireland down by not properly engaging with the intent of the Good Friday Agreement.

"What was envisaged was that it [a border poll] would probably arise in the first 10 years. The only reason it didn't arise is because the Executive was stop-start.

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"It would be hard to believe that you don't get that vote in eight years time, it'll be 30 years since the Good Friday Agreement," Mr Ahern said.

He believes that the latest Brexit deal offers a big opportunity for Northern Ireland to enjoy "the best of both worlds".

"If Northern Ireland handles this right they will do very well, but they need political stability," he said.

Acknowledging that the new arrangement is similar to that negotiated by his predecessor, the ex-Fianna Fail leader added: "I do feel sorry for Theresa May. The difference is she didn't have the skills of being able to sell it. I assume the huge effort they will do is square off the DUP between now and Saturday."

Asked about the possibility of elections in the UK and Ireland as a result of the Brexit deal, Mr Ahern said it's hard to see Boris Johnson's Conservative Party losing an election now.

However, he refused to predict the result of a Dail election, saying Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are neck and neck.

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