Republic of Ireland news

Anyone believing Irish unity will happen by 2021 'should go for a trip in space for a decade', says former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said anyone who believes Irish unity will happen by New Year's Day 2021 "should go for a trip in space for a decade"
John Monaghan

FORMER Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said anyone who believes an Irish unity will happen next year "should go for a trip in space for a decade".

Mr Ahern said lots of work needed to be done for a "new Ireland" adding that most of it "might be on the southern side".

He told BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday with Dearbhail a new Ireland on January 1 2021 was "just not going to happen".

"I think in my mind two things have to happen. The institutions in Northern Ireland have to be operational, successfully, unhindered, for a prolonged period of time," he said.

"Secondly, the actual work of how we would make a new Ireland which would be totally accommodating, where we can live together, work together, share together and understand our differences and diversities."

Mr Ahern's comments came as Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, said that while his party was "for a united Ireland", it was not making preparations for a border poll.

"One of our biggest achievements is the Good Friday Agreement, and now parties are trying to push the Good Friday Agreement aside," he said.

"I was very clear at the outset of Brexit, I wasn't going to conflate Brexit with unity.

"The poll itself should be the culmination of a developed understanding. I believe in an evolutionary pathway to this, rather than sudden."

Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty branded the remarks "utterly shameful".

"Whilst Fianna Fáil occasionally pays lip service to its Republican roots, it has long since gave up any notion of bringing the Republic proclaimed in 1916 to fruition," he said.

Meanwhile, it has been confirmed in official correspondence that the Dublin government is not conducting internal risk assessments on a border poll or reunification.

Joe Hackett, assistant secretary to the Chief Risk Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs, confirmed to Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly that he could "confirm that Departmental Committees are not specifically engaged on the question of a referendum on a united Ireland".

Mr Daly believes the Irish government is acting recklessly by not conducting such assessments.

"The government must learn the lesson of the disastrous Brexit referendum in Britain, any referendum requires long-term detailed planning in advance," he said.

"A referendum on a united Ireland should only be held at the very end of a long process."

Senator Daly compiled, for the Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee, the first report by a Dáil and Senate Committee on uniting Ireland.

To date none of the 17 recommendations which were adopted unanimously by the all-party committee have been acted upon by the Irish government.

There will be a debate on the report for the committee when the Senate returns next year.

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