Republic of Ireland news

Bertie Ahern: Border poll is inevitable

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern said a border poll appeared "inevitable" within the next decade following Sinn Fein's electoral success.

The former Fianna Fail leader said: "I think a border poll is inevitable. If you ask me when that is, I think it's probably five years off at least.

"I think the Sinn Fein position is it should be held within five years. So let's say we are talking about it being five years off, I do not think you are going to get the circumstances where it would become a condition of government that it has to be held in the short term.

"But it will be inevitable over this decade."

On BBC Radio 4's World at One he warned against rushing towards a poll on reunification before extensive preparatory work had been completed.

"It can only be done when the preparation is done, when the case is made, when it has been well explained, when people know the outcome," he said.

"To try and push it or rush it, which some people will probably try to do, would be a grave mistake."

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill said it was a "good day".

Asked how far up the agenda will preparation for a united Ireland be, Ms O'Neill said: "We said we want to negotiate a programme for government that delivers on what we said to the electorate throughout this election campaign.

"We have provided solutions in terms of the health crisis and the housing crisis so we will want to work with others to establish a programme for government that reflects how we can deliver upon those promises.

"But obviously we are Irish republicans, there is no secret of that, and clearly we will have asks in terms of the republican project, clearly we will have asks in terms of the kind of society we want to build.

"But obviously at the end of the day we have said there should be unity referendum within five years so that's the position we will take into negotiations."

Asked does she believe Ireland has moved closer to unification, she said: "Yes, I absolutely do. We have said things are going in this direction for some time, I think for a number of reasons not least the fact that the unionist majority, the very basis on which this northern state was founded, is gone and has been gone over the last number of elections.

"But I think this is a seismic election shift in the 26 counties, Sinn Fein are the largest party in the 26 counties, I think that is significant in itself."

Speaking at Stormont, the Sinn Fein vice president commented: "Today is a good day on the back of what is a game changer election for Sinn Fein in the 26 counties.

"The people have spoken in large numbers, they have thrown their support behind Sinn Fein. I think that our message of change has very much resonated with the voters. They were tired of the status quo, they were tired of the establishment parties and their arrogance, they were tired of the fact they have been failed on the housing and health front.

"We're very grateful for all those people who came out and voted in such large numbers for the Sinn Fein team.

"We now are involved in the next stage of that which is wait until the votes are all counted towards the end of today but Mary-Lou has already reached out to the other smaller parties who also had a message of change to look about how we can form a government that actually reflects on the needs of citizens.

"We'll be very true to the mandate which we sought from the people."


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