Bertie Ahern ‘infuriated’ at collapse of North talks

Bertie Ahern has said he is saddened and infuriated by the collapse of talks in the North.

The former taoiseach said he finds it “very hard to understand” why Sinn Féin and the DUP have thrown away their opportunity to take up power on behalf of the people of the North.

Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire said he does not intend to appoint ministers to take political control at Stormont. 

However, on Monday, he introduced a budget for the North through the House of Commons as a result of the impasse — a move that has been seen as a step closer to imposing direct rule.

Mr Ahern, who was a leading figure in the establishment of power-sharing in the North through the Good Friday Agreement, said: “Everywhere in the world politicians want power, even where they are not democracies, politicians want power and here we have a situation in Northern Ireland where they are given power and they don’t want power.

“What I liked about politics was being able to deal with issues to do with health and education and jobs in the inner city when we had high unemployment back in the 70s and the 80s.

“That’s what politics is about and to be elected to a body that has the power to do these things and opt not to do them is very hard to understand.”

Mr Ahern was at the launch of the Festival of Politics in Dublin yesterday.

Asked if the breakdown in negotiations, which has signalled a potential move towards direct rule, has saddened and infuriated him, he said it had done “all of those things”.

“I think it has been a sad year, 2017, in terms of the institutions, it has been really really bad, no devolved government, no working across the party lines, the whole spirit of what should be happening is really not functioning at all,” he said.

“The institutions are so strong and so powerful. The devolved institutions have the powers to do practically anything. 

“People working together working across the lines and the old differences and communicating with people could make such a difference and particularly at a time with Brexit and all that entails and instead of that we have had a year of false dawns and dusks.

“I hope that we can jump-start [negotiations], but it’s not just a question of getting them up again, it’s people working together, co-operating, dealing with the issues of the day.”

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