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Ending mandatory coalition power sharing at Stormont would be 'crazy and dangerous', says Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern 

FORMER taoiseach Bertie Ahern says ending the mandatory coalition at Stormont would be "absolutely crazy and dangerous".

DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson had yesterday questioned whether the existing mandatory coalition power-sharing arrangements could ever be revived and said his party could press for major reform and the introduction of a system of voluntary coalition.

However, Bertie Ahern said the republican and nationalist community would interpret this "as going back to a unionist rule".

Speaking to the Today with Sean O'Rourke show on RTÉ this morning Mr Ahern said: "They can't just go away and have a new form of coalition".

"The whole constitutional changes were based on the nationalist/republican-unionist/loyalist communities working together".

Mr Ahern said he couldn't see how an election would benefit any party so soon after last May's and that there has been "too much reference back to the past" in recent political statements.

Relations between the DUP and Sinn Féin soured over First Minister Arlene Foster's refusal to stand aside while an investigation into the botched Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) took place.

The taxpayer has been left with a £490m bill over 20 years due to a failure to cap subsidies.

Mr Ahern said he felt that in calling for Ms Foster to stand aside Sinn Féin had been "pressing it too hard" but added: "If you're the minister that starts something then you're going to have to take some of the blame. What's wrong with that?"

Referring to Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness's resignation which will trigger an election as his party has indicated it will not appoint a replacement, Mr Ahern said that for more than two decades the veteran politican "has been a huge plus to the peace process".

"As chief negotiator he's a man of his word. I know that, I've dealt with him across the table for years. He has huge respect within the republican old guard and the republican Sinn Féin family in general.

"He has huge patience. People might think Martin McGuinness, because of his past, is a hostile kind of a person, he's not.

"I saw how he worked with Ian Paisley. Ian Paisley told me personally how much he respected him, that he genuinely thought he was for good... He got on well with Peter Robinson, he stood by Robinson.

"I think for for the DUP to see Martin off the stage in this kind of way and to break it up in this kind of way is insane."

Full interview here:  

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