Bertie Ahern ‘highly disappointed’ by Stormont stalemate

The year-long stalemate in the North and the absence of the Stormont assembly is “highly disappointing”, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

At an event at Dublin City University (DCU), Mr Ahern said he hoped the impasse could be resolved shortly but believes it will require a “huge push” from all parties and both governments.

“It is disappointing — hopefully it can be resolved. But the process has been stop-start over the years.

“Overall, the agreement has been a great success and has brought peace and stability,” he said.

“It is disappointing we don’t have the executive up and running. Hopefully, on the other side of these commemorations the sides can get it back up and running and it seems they were very close to it five or six weeks ago,” he said in response to questions from TV3 News.

Mr Ahern was critical of the British government, saying it had allowed “the ball to be dropped” and a greater level of engagement was now required to restore the executive.

He said it was understandable that Theresa May had been consumed with Brexit, but the risks of neglecting the North are too high.

Mr Ahern will be a key contributor to events in the coming days to mark the calendar anniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

He will speak at Queens University on Tuesday alongside former British prime minister Tony Blair, former US president Bill Clinton, and former US envoy to the North, Senator George Mitchell. Mr Ahern and Mr Mitchell will appear on the Ray D’Arcy show on RTÉ television tonight.

Meanwhile, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s hardline stance on the border also risks provoking loyalist paramilitaries, said former Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble.

Mr Trimble said any special deal to keep the region within the European Union would destroy a key tenet of the agreement that there would be no constitutional change without majority consent in Northern Ireland. “What is happening now is that people are talking up the issue of Brexit and the border for the benefit of a different agenda from the agreement,” he said.

“The one thing that would provoke loyalist paramilitaries is the present Irish Government saying silly things about the border and the constitutional issue.

“If it looks as though the constitutional arrangements of the agreement, based on the principle of consent, are going to be superseded by so-called ‘special EU status’ then that is going to weaken the union and undermine the very agreement that Dublin says it wants to uphold.”

The former Northern first minister said he believed loyalist paramilitaries could re-activate if the principle of consent, enshrined in the agreement, was put in danger by any post-Brexit deal demanded by Dublin and nationalist parties. The Ulster Unionist leader at the time, his backing for the Belfast agreement was crucial to its success


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