Ahern: United Ireland ‘most desirable outcome for people and communities’

Bertie Ahern Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

A united Ireland would be the “most desirable outcome for people and communities across Ireland”, former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

The former Irish leader, who played a significant role enabling the landmark Belfast/Good Friday peace agreement in 1998, said unity is “not a short-term goal”.

He also challenged those who backed a united Ireland to be prepared to “put in the hard yards”.

Mr Ahern is set to take part in a New Ireland Commission in conversation event at Leinster House on Tuesday.

Former British prime minister Tony Blair with his Irish counterpart Bertie Ahern Credit: right

The discussion is set to focus on the SDLP initiative’s mission to build a “detailed prospectus for Irish unity, building on the experience of leaders across Ireland who spilled their sweat for peace”.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mr Ahern said: “I fundamentally believe that the vision for a new Ireland based on the consent of the people who share this island, as set out in the Good Friday Agreement, is not just possible but it is the most desirable outcome for people and communities across Ireland.

“It is not a short-term goal. All of those who believe in change must be committed to putting in the hard yards to build a prospectus that reaches across traditional divides and demonstrates to our unionist neighbours that they will be respected, their traditions will be cherished and their children will be at home in the new Ireland we build together.

“This commission is a serious political project and I look forward to contributing my own experiences of working towards a common goal with communities across Ireland.”

The SDLP leader Colum Eastwood will be defending the Foyle seat Credit: Liam McBurney/PA

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood described the event as the latest in a series across Ireland.

“We are delighted that former taoiseach Bertie Ahern will provide his insights into the campaign to build a new Ireland,” he said.

“Bertie’s long association with peace and prosperity in Northern Ireland and his commitment, in particular, to meaningful engagement with those from a unionist background provide important lessons for those of us who believe in a new future for everyone who shares our island.

“This is the latest in a series of engagement events that the New Ireland Commission has held in Belfast, Derry, London, Bellaghy and Dublin.

“We are committed to engaging with people and communities across these islands to build a prospectus for change. Indeed, we believe we are best placed to bridge the gaps between our communities.

“I look forward to hearing from Bertie and to building on the work of creating a new Ireland for everyone.”

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