Bertie Ahern slams plan to use Irish airports and ports for British immigration control

Former Fianna Fáil leader says Ireland has no right to question EU citizens

bertie ahern

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern pictured earlier this year | Photo:

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has hit out at a proposal to shift British immigration controls to Irish ports and airport.

Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire suggested earlier this month that checks could be carried out at entry points in the Republic, to prevent the reintroduction of a hard border.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald subsequently appeared to support the plan, reiterating the government’s opposition to any border between north and south.

But Mr Ahern told Newstalk’s Pat Kenny that was strongly opposed to any such move, saying Ireland had "absolutely" no right to question EU citizens.

"That’s just not going to happen. There’s no possibility that we’re going to be manning that."

The former Fianna Fáil leader added: “Imagine if the same was to happen to Irish people going to EU countries.

"Say if you or I were going over to a conference or football game, and we were to get that interrogation with our EU passports... To start being questioned is not logical."

Citing concerns over immigration, Mr Ahern said British people voted to leave the EU due to "a lot of misinformation".

He went on to criticise Boris Johnson for playing a leading role in the Brexit campaign.

It emerged over the weekend that the British foreign secretary wrote a pro-EU article just days before he backed leaving.

"Boris made a decision for political purposes and went against his own adviser who said it was better for him to support it," Mr Ahern said.

"I always thought he was a strong European. He made a calculation and got it wrong.

"He thought by going this way, Cameron would be weaker, Cameron would last a year or two and go, and he would take over as prime minister, but that got unstuck."

Mr Ahern also weighed in on ongoing industrial disputes here in Ireland, calling for a return to some form of social partnership.

Industrial action is being planned by both teachers and gardaí in the coming weeks.

"Public servants have gone through eight hard years - I don’t think anyone disputes that - and they’re now in a position where they’re a long way behind," he said.

The former taoiseach referred to the Finnish model, which takes productivity and competitiveness into account, as one way forward.

"We probably didn't do that - I accept that,” he said, referring to pay deals agreed during his own tenure.

"I think they’re things that should be included because it keeps everyone focused on the one page."

But the former Fianna Fáil leader was reluctant to criticise the current Fine Gael administration, admitting he agreed with many of its economic measures.

"By and large, [Michael] Noonan has done a good, sound job over the years, and I support what he’s been doing," he said.

Mr Ahern added that he thought Fianna Fáil was right to enter into a confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael following the election.

The country should not have to be sent back to the polls over and over again, he said. "That would have been a bad thing."