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Bertie Ahern says poll on Irish unity should be held on 30th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement

Bertie Ahern says a poll on Irish unity should be held on the 30th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

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FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said a poll on Irish unity should be held on the 30th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

The ex-Fianna Fail leader, who helped negotiate the 1998 deal to end 30 years of bloodshed in Northern Ireland, said more use should be made of its institutions.

Bertie Ahern says poll on Irish unity should be held on 30th anniversary of Good Friday Agreement
Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern
Garrett White – The Sun

The agreement established a series of institutions for political cooperation across Ireland. Ahern told Italian newspaper La Repubblica a united Ireland was achievable.

He said: “Yes, I do. It can be done in the long term.

“It’s not going to be this decade; the vote should be the end of the decade, maybe on the 30th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The only way it can happen is if the nationalist people, the Republican people, and all the people in the south and the Republic of Ireland can convince our unionist friends that this is the best thing for the whole island.”

For the second time in recent months, Ahern has called for a poll on a united Ireland to be held in 2028.

The former government leader — who was Taoiseach when the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998 — believes there will be a surge in support for the idea post-Brexit.

POLL RESULTS

A recent survey by the Sunday Times found 51 percent of people in the North favored such a referendum within the next five years, with 44 percent against and the rest unsure.

However, the number of people favoring unity and those against it were locked at 47 percent each.

Speaking to Newstalk last month, Ahern — famous for his ‘Bertie Bowl’ stadium bid — said of the treaty: “I said at that stage two things have to happen. We had to have institutions under the Good Friday Agreement that were stable for a prolonged period — we haven’t had that ever since the agreement was signed 23 years ago almost.

“And the second point I made at that stage (was) that the propriety work that made sense of all of this, which has really only commenced.

“There’s the Shared Island Unit, which is something I support that the Taoiseach has done within his Department.

“But there’s a whole lot of other academic work going on. Both of those things have to happen. And what I said at that stage, and I still say, that any idea of a vote that was seen in the GFA should be probably on the 30th anniversary of the GFA — which is the end of the decade.

‘MORE LIKELY’

“I don’t see it being something that will be held in the short-term, and I do think those two conditions have to be fulfilled.

“It was an absolute understanding to bring republicans and nationalists on-side, that somewhere in the future there would be a poll.

“That aspiration has to be there, and it has to be fulfilled someday.” Brexit has forced the issue of a united Ireland back onto the mainstream political agenda for the first time in years.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she felt Brexit could make the unification of Ireland “more likely.”

However, Catholic Primate of All-Ireland Archbishop Eamon Martin said it would be a mistake to rush into the vote without proper discussions.

 

He said: “I actually feel there is a huge amount to be done in terms of conversations on health, education, infrastructure on this island, on the way we can cooperate better. We see this through the Covid pandemic.

“Conversations have not even begun in any real manner, and I would be encouraging people to think, converse, to share their differing perspectives.

“Have we even begun to think what would be the opportunities, the threats, the hopes, the fears connected with whatever changes might happen on this island and indeed in the whole recalibration of relationships between these islands that has to happen from Brexit?”