Bertie Ahern credits younger voters with changing Ireland
FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said a merger between electoral rivals Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael is "possible" in the future.
The two civil war parties are currently in a coalition with the Green Party, after agreeing a programme for government in June.
Speaking to the BBC's Talkback, Mr Ahern also said he also believed Stormont would eventually have a system of voluntary coalition.
The former Fianna Fáil leader, who served as taoiseach from 1997 to 2008, said a younger generation of voters on both sides of the border had influenced the huge shift in modern Irish politics.
"Young people are more educated now and people are travelling and I suppose those old ways of identifications are not what they were," he said.
"For the foreseeable future I think you're probably going to find Fianna Fáil-Fine Gael joining together, I think that's the way it will go.
"Where that goes maybe in 20 years time I don't know."
Mr Ahern, who was instrumental in helping negotiate the Good Friday Agreement said he believed the Northern Ireland Executive could move to a voluntary coalition in future.
Adding that voting patterns were changing in Northern Ireland he said: "People are voting for new parties and people are looking for new issues.
"There are those changes and, I think, that will continue to evolve and then it'll become almost impossible to have a collective leadership.
"I think it would more normal and I think you'll find in time that that will happen."
Mr Ahern spoke about a historic meeting between himself and the late Rev Ian Paisley at a visitors centre at the site of the Battle of the Boyne in 2008.
He said the two "ended up great friends".
"Baroness Eileen and the family, I grew to admire them, we worked together on the St Andrews Agreement and I kept in touch with him afterwards.
"We had that great day at the Battle of the Boyne because I always wanted for several years to try and turn that site into more than just fields.
"It was trying to move history on, 1690 was a long time ago.
"There is nothing wrong with celebrating these things, commemorating them, but at the same time we have to do it in a spirit of understanding each other.
"I built up that relationship with Ian and Eileen and I had a great regard for him. It was a sad day when we lost him."