Northern Ireland

United Ireland ‘most desirable outcome for people and communities’ says Bertie Ahern ahead of New Ireland Commission event

The former Taoiseach will speak at the SDLP initiative event in Dublin tonight

Bertie Ahern expressed concern about ‘dragging’ out the process over the summer (Charles McQuillan/PA)
Bertie Ahern will speak at the New Ireland Commission event in Dublin tonight. PICTURE: CHARLES MCQUILLAN/PA

A united Ireland would be the “most desirable outcome for people and communities across Ireland”, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

He has also says that those who backed a united Ireland must be “committed to putting in the hard yards”.

His comments come ahead of his appearance at an event organised by the New Ireland Commission, an SDLP initiative aimed at informing the debate on Irish unity.

Mr Ahern is set to provide his insights into the campaign to build “a new Ireland” at the conversation event at Leinster House in Dublin on Tuesday evening.

The discussion will focus on the commission’s mission to “build a detailed prospectus for Irish unity, building on the experience of leaders across Ireland who spilled their sweat for peace”.

Hosted by Conor Houston, CEO of the New Ireland Commission, it will also feature an introduction from South Belfast MP Claire Hanna.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Ahern said: “I fundamentally believe that the vision for a new Ireland based on the consent of the people who share this island, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement, is not just possible but it is the most desirable outcome for people and communities across Ireland.

“It is not a short term goal.

“All of those who believe in change must be committed to putting in the hard yards to build a prospectus that reaches across traditional divides and demonstrates to our unionist neighbours that they will be respected, their traditions will be cherished and their children will be at home in the new Ireland we build together.

“This commission is a serious political project and I look forward to contributing my own experiences of working toward a common goal with communities across Ireland.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said: “We are delighted that former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will provide his insights into the campaign to build a new Ireland.

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“Bertie’s long association with peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and his commitment, in particular, to meaningful engagement with those from a unionist background provide important lessons for those of us who believe in a new future for everyone who shares our island.

“This is the latest in a series of engagement events that the New Ireland Commission has held in Belfast, Derry, London, Bellaghy and Dublin.

“We are committed to engaging with people and communities across these islands to build a prospectus for change. Indeed, we believe we are best placed to bridge the gaps between our communities.

“I look forward to hearing from Bertie and to building on the work of creating a new Ireland for everyone.”