Bertie Ahern asked how Ireland feels about ‘re-joining the UK’

Ex-taoiseach tells British MPs he sometimes feels like Rip Van Winkle

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has told a House of Commons select committee that suggestions the Republic of Ireland "re-join" the UK, leave the European Union or ignore its obligations to protect the EU border, have not gone down very well in Ireland.

Mr Ahern was being questioned at the Exiting the European Union Committee in London as Brexit looms at the end of March.

He was asked by MPs for his views on how the issue of the Border between the North and the Republic would be resolved before March 29th and about the constitutional position of Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

“The Good Friday agreement resolved the constitutional issue in Northern Ireland on the basis of consent, that Northern Ireland as of now remains part of United Kingdom and until some day that changes by the will of the people.


“We also have to be very clear on this and, chairman with the greatest of respect, sometimes when I hear people, including some distinguished members of parliament and I totally respect their views and others, talking loudly over the past few years of no basis existing for divergence of any kind between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, I look to wondering had I turned into Rip Van Winkle, that great man from the legend who fell asleep for 20 years and woke up finding everything changed.

"The reality is when I changed the constitutional position of Articles 2 and 3, what that did was I said there was a difference between Dublin and Belfast. that's what I said, but I also said that there was a difference between Belfast and Finchley.

Mr Ahern, who was one of the architects of the 1998 Belfast Agreement said the argument that Northern Ireland was “precisely the same as Finchley” was “constitutionally incorrect as per the Good Friday Agreement and I think people need to understand that”.

MP Peter Grant of the Scottish Nationalist Party asked Mr Ahern: “Some of the other things that have been suggested, and some of them have gained a degree of traction within this parliament in some quarters that have been said would solve the problem.

“One is that the Republic of Ireland unilaterally goes against the requirement of the EU treaties by not carrying out its responsibility to maintain the border of the EU after Brexit. One is that the Republic should just leave the European Union and that would solve all the problems and one which I believe is the subject of a petition to this parliament is that the Republic should re-join the United Kingdom and that would solve all the problems. What’s your impressions of how these various suggestions have been received by the people of Ireland?

Mr Ahern responded: “Well I’ll just be kind and say not very well”.

“Unfortunately we have an 800-year past of difficulties and that’s just a reality of our history.”

Patrick  Logue

Patrick Logue

Patrick Logue is Digital Editor of The Irish Times