Belfast Telegraph

Don't force Ireland border poll, warns Bertie Ahern

By Laura Larkin

Bertie Ahern yesterday 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.

Speaking on Newstalk radio, the former Irish prime minister 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 cop per-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.

"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 that the customs 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 also said it was unlikely his former party Fianna Fail would consider entering a coalition with Sinn Fein, but suggested that deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald taking over the leadership role in the party might help.

Meanwhile, former Irish minister Michael McDowell claimed a special economic zone should be set up in Northern Ireland to reduce the damage from Brexit.

He said: "The economic outlook for the north post-Brexit is quite bleak; foreign investment will be very difficult for the north to attract outside of the EU."

Mr McDowell added: "If the north-south trading relationship and the north's agricultural economy were preserved in a post-Brexit arrangement, the outlook for the northern economy might look a lot less bleak.

"This is an area where there is huge scope for imagination and flexibility in the EU negotiating position."

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