Ahern says dynamic towards unity is irresistible
The Taoiseach has said there is an irresistible dynamic working towards national unity. Asked in an interview on RTE's This Week programme yesterday if he believed there was "an irresistible dynamic working towards unification at this stage", Mr Ahern replied: "Oh, I do and a lot of people do".
If the top political layer was removed, the all-Ireland level of co-operation in business, agriculture and in non-political areas was immense. He took no credit for any of this, but it was happening "to an enormous extent, and even more than I ever thought on April 10th that it would".
"I make no secret of the fact that I hope, in the fullness of time, people would see that working together on this is land makes more sense that looking to Westminster and that people would make a decision to move away from that. But in the mean time, I really believe that if we can agree the implementation bodies - which we are very close to doing - and agree the areas of co-operation, things will radically change."
Predicting a united Ireland in his lifetime, Mr Ahern said 10 to 15 years was probably too short.
"I do think that it will happen. I would imagine, as happens in other countries in these circumstances, that you will find a constitutional referendum again. It might take 15 to 20 years, when people might vote again.
"It is up to them, republicans and others who would like to see one jurisdiction in this country, to convince people that in areas of co-operation and developing joint policies, and working the implementation bodies and other areas of co-operation, this system is better than devolution."
On backbench dissent over regionalisation, Mr Ahern admitted there had been controversy about Independent TDs claiming influence over the Government, "but the reality is, and the parliamentary party understands this very well, if you don't have Independent support for a minority government, then you won't have to worry about policy because you will implement nothing." Responding last night to Mr Ahern's comments on a united Ireland, the deputy leader of the DUP, Mr Peter Robinson, said: "It's what is written between the lines. Mr Ahern sees he has an agreement in place which is a mechanism to take him to a united Ireland. "I presume he thinks unionists are not prepared to fight their corner, but he has yet to see the full force of the will of the unionist community."
Dissident Ulster Unionist MP Mr Jeffrey Donaldson said: "They see the agreement as a staging post or another phase on the road to their objective of a united Ireland. Coming at a time when unionists are trying to reach agreement on the nature of North-South co-operation, these comments are extremely unhelpful. It is clear that Irish nationalism, led by its Chieftain Bertie Ahern, is intent on pressing ahead towards a united Ireland."