Mary Lou as Sinn Féin leader could "change the game" - Bertie

The former Taoiseach suggests "I always wanted to do a deal with the Labour Party"

Mary Lou as Sinn Féin leader could "change the game" - Bertie

Photo: Leah Farrell/Rollingnews.ie

Bertie Ahern has said Mary Lou McDonald taking over the Sinn Féin leadership could "change the game" over the prospect of a future coalition with Fianna Fáil.

The former Taoiseach made the comments during an in-depth interview on Yates on Sunday.

Bertie also spoke to Ivan about Brexit, the prospect of a United Ireland, and his view of the Mahon Tribunal.

Mr Ahern resigned from Fianna Fáil amid the controversy over the findings of the tribunal.

Last November, a Fianna Fáil constituency in Dublin Central called for the former Taoiseach to be invited to rejoin the party. Would he consider some sort of reconciliation?

“Of course," he told Ivan. "if I was a card carrying member tomorrow I would be happy. In the meantime, I still go on and support it in whatever way I can. “  

On the subject of the current state of Fianna Fáil, Mr Ahern predicts that his former party will be contesting an election early next year, before the second anniversary of the current Government.

While Fianna Fáil is currently enjoying a lead in the polls, the numbers suggest they would still very much need to consider a coalition. 

He told Ivan: "I was always a bit more on the left - I always wanted to do a deal with the Labour Party.

"From what I gauge from all my Fianna Fáil friends, there is no feeling about going with Sinn Féin whatever. I think more of them would look for a deal of stability with Fine Gael."

However, he suggests a leadership change - in the form of Mary Lou McDonald taking over from current leader Gerry Adams - could lead to such a more amiable relationship.

"That could change the game," he suggested. "I don't think that can just happen, where Mary Lou comes in and then all of a sudden it changes - I think she would have to be there for a period and [make some changes]."

However, he also said he does not believe that the traditional 'bitter enemies' relationship between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael will remain the norm into the future.

United Ireland

Tony Blair (R) US senator George Mitchell (C) and Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern smiling after they signed the historic agreement for peace in Northern Ireland. Picture by: PA/PA Archive/PA Images

The debate around the future of Northern Ireland has become a talking point again, after EU leaders yesterday agreed that any future united Ireland would be recognised as a member of the union.

Bertie Ahern was a key figure in negotiating the Good Friday Agreement - and he does not believe a united Ireland is a possibility in the near future.

He observed: "I'd love to think there will [be a united Ireland]. Having a border poll in the short-term would set it back and make sure it's not in my kids' lifetime.

"[The agreement] was not for some sort of sectarian vote, or the day when the nationalists or republicans could outvote the unionists and loyalists. If you want trouble again in the North, play that game - because it is a dangerous game.

"The whole spirit of the Good Friday Agreement is to work in peace and harmony on this island, 'til the day comes that nationalist and republicans will convince freely a proportion of unionists and loyalists that a united Ireland is a good idea [...] You will set it back by forcing it in the short-term."

Mr Ahern believes that people in the Republic do not currently want a vote, but also suggested that the Conservatives in the UK still value control of Northern Ireland.

He argued: "The only thing is they love the idea that the Empire is a little bigger than England."

You can listen back to the full interview via the podcast below.