Good Friday Agreement: 'Dublin may have to play hardball over Brexit', says former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Good Friday Agreement: 'Dublin may have to play hardball over Brexit', says Irish former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern

Bertie Ahern said Brexit is a disaster for Ireland

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Former Irish Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said Dublin could have to "play hardball" with Britain over Brexit.

Ahern, one of the key figures behind the Good Friday Agreement, said Ireland should insist the UK stay closely aligned with the Republic after EU withdrawal.

Asked whether Ireland should take a tough stance in negotiations over cross-border trade and alignment, Ahern told BBC2's Newsnight: "I'm afraid the answer to that is we have to play hardball.

"Let's say customs union equals trade agreement. If that trade agreement is fairly close with what's presently there, I think, forget about Ireland for a minute, I think that would be good for the UK's economy."

Ahern, who described Brexit as a "disaster for Ireland", insisted any return to a physical border would not be acceptable.

"There never will be a border," he said. "There is not going to be a physical border across Ireland because if you tried to put it there you wouldn't have to wait for terrorism to take it down, people would just physically pull it down, the ordinary people."

The Republic's former leader said it was not the right time for a border poll on Northern Ireland's status.

He said: "To have a border poll, and even though I was the one who put it into the Good Friday Agreement, to have it in circumstances where there is not sustainability and there is not workability of the whole institution, would be the wrong time to do it.

"The only time a border poll is worth having, when a sizeable number, whatever it is, it will never be huge, but a sizeable number of unionists and loyalists believe that they can join and share with republicans and nationalists in a new Ireland."

Ahern commented as five former Secretaries of State for Northern Ireland marked the 20th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement by warning against a hard border.