Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has warned that Brexit could have a devastating effect on county Meath in the coming years. Mr Ahern was speaking at a breakfast hosted by local election candidate Aisling Dempsey attended by over 200 people.
He also accused Sinn Fein of playing politics with Irish reunification and making a ‘silly’ proposal for a border poll prematurely last year.
Speaking at the Brexit Breakfast Briefing, Bertie Ahern said: “I’ve some personal sympathy but not political sympathy for Theresa May. She has done a terrible job handling Brexit and so has her predecessor David Cameron. Someone else will have to pick up the pieces because I can’t see her surviving too long as the leader of the Conservative Party.
A “no deal Brexit” would be disastrous for Meath and towns like Navan and Trim around the country. However, I don’t believe we’ll have a knife edge Brexit. Yes, there could be a no-deal Brexit in the same way there could be a cyclone or earthquake in Ireland today but it’s not likely. My understanding is that EU officials will not let Britain crash out and will give them space to pass a withdrawal agreement – I just don’t believe it’ll be May’s version.
"I’m not surprised the UK Speaker has told May she cannot bring the same proposal to the house again. It’s been defeated twice. I believe that May will reposition the bill and get some more commitments from the EU and this will mean they will be able to vote again. And it will not be passed.
A clear majority of MPs across parties want to see a different withdrawal bill – they will not let her bill pass as is.
My long held believe is that they should hold a series of indicative votes on several options. The one that commands the majority should be enacted. In that case, I believe that the parliament would select an option where they leave but stay in the Customs Union and stay as close as it doesn’t make a difference to the Single Market. That would be fine by us and it would suit us even more than the withdrawal agreement.
My good friend Tony Blair believes that there will be another referendum. There is a proposal with some support. May can pass her Withdrawal Agreement on the basis that it goes back to the people.”
Ahern also spoke about Irish reunification: “The other part of this is that when we get through Brexit, the next thing we need to do is getting the institutions in the North up and running again. That’s my concern and that’s the bigger project for me. The number one aim of Fianna Fáil is still the reunification of the island of Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement fundamentally changed the status of Northern Ireland. It is no longer a part of the UK. There in international law that the UK recognises is the ability of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their sovereignty. This effectively means that the majority can decide the sovereignty of the nation but that all communities much be brought along and included. That concept of parity of esteem is what Sinn Fein miss when they opportunistically called for a border poll.
Anything that happens from now on, must respect all communities. People in the north can vote on the reunification or stay with the UK. But whatever their decision, nobody can move on their own, all communities must be brought along."
Aisling Dempsey said: “Watching UK politicians, and politicians closer to home, play politics with their nation’s future just to stay in power has been terrible. You can only feel sorry for the people in the UK and Northern Irish as they watch their politicians refuse to step up. The impact of their cowardice could have terrible consequences for every person in Ireland.
Those UK politicians and some closer to home that are shirking their responsibility as public servants should remind themselves of the sacrifices Bertie Ahern made to secure peace on this island. We all remember the image of a tired, ashen faced Bertie walking out of the latest in a series of marathon meetings that led to peace. He had to travel straight to his mother’s funeral that morning.”
Deputy Shane Cassells said: “I think that the fact Bertie has been asked by the UK, EU and many on this island for advice on Brexit shows the level of experience, insight and expertise he has."