Bertie Ahern: Brexit border vote is the last thing we need

The former Taoiseach says Ireland should have already opened bilateral talks with the UK...

Bertie Ahern: Brexit border vote is the last thing we need

Rolling News

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says he doesn't understand why the Government isn't already negotiating with the UK on an Anglo-Irish Brexit deal.

While EU leaders have stressed that there is no avenue for bilateral negotiations between individual nations and the UK - the former Taoiseach has argued that the internationally binding Good Friday Agreement peace deal allows bilateral talks between the countries on issues other than trade.

"For the life of me, I don't understand why or accept the argument that we are precluded on those issues," he told a Seanad select committee addressing Brexit concerns.

"It is an international agreement, and we have every right to bilaterally negotiate. Not the trade issues ... but on several of the other issues," he continued.

He added that he believes that Brexit terms cannot be agreed within two years and the process of drafting a new trade deal could take up to a decade.

Mr Ahern said a specific dialogue is needed between Dublin and London as the post-Brexit future of Northern Ireland is decided.

The Dubliner thinks that there is no case for a vote on Irish unity:

"The only time we should have a border poll in my view, and I will argue this for the rest of my life, is when we are in a situation where nationalists and republicans and a sizeable amount of unionists and loyalists are in consent ... To have a sectarian headcount now is the last thing we need."

Sinn Féin Senator Niall Ó Donnghaile objected to the language used by Mr Ahern, "I do take issue and a wee degree of offence in terms of your language around a democratic exercise on Irish unity. I don't think it would be a sectarian headcount - it would be a referendum like any other," he commented.