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NI Protocol

New British government may be needed to reach protocol deal, says Bertie Ahern

The former Taoiseach was speaking during a panel discussion with Tony Blair’s former press secretary Alastair Campbell.

BERTIE AHERN HAS said that if an agreement on the Northern Ireland Protocol is not struck soon, it will probably not happen until there is a new British government.

“If it’s not sorted in the next few weeks, we will have to wait until the next British government, which looks like it will be a Labour government,” the former Taoiseach said.

“I hope that isn’t what happens, I hope they can sort it out,” he added.

Ahern was speaking during a panel discussion with Alastair Campbell, former press secretary to Tony Blair.

Campbell also agreed that a new British government may be needed before a protocol deal is struck.

“A combination of Brexit, populism, the utter charlatanistic opportunism of (Boris) Johnson and his lying to the unionist community, that is what has driven us to the point we’re at now,” he said.

He added that he believed UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is trying to find a resolution.

“When Tony and Bertie were doing the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement, they were relatively newly elected: Tony had a massive landslide, Bertie was this young, powerful Taoiseach who could get stuff done. Rishi Sunak is the fifth prime minister in six years since Brexit with very little political power.

“For all that I think Rishi Sunak is trying, I don’t believe this is going to be fixed until the whole lot of them are gone.”

The Dublin event was organised by Ibec to discuss the Good Friday Agreement ahead of its 25th anniversary in April.

Plans are under way to commemorate the peace agreement despite the collapse of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing institutions after the 2022 May elections.

Ahern said that it was not Brexit that brought down the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly, and that Stormont’s politicians share some of the blame.

“Politicians, because the way the whole deal was put together in the north, with joint responsibility between the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, politicians haven’t been as brave as they should have been in making it work.

“They, unfortunately I think, too much of the time they took their eye off what the real issue was and got tied up in smaller issues. In spite of it, Northern Ireland has continued on to do quite well,” he said.

Ahern also said that he was not against a review of the peace agreement, but said the priority should be to restore the Assembly and Executive.

Campbell added: “It doesn’t need to be done because there’s a big event and a big anniversary coming up, but it does have to be done.

“The tragic thing for me is that we’re allowing it to become normalised – the idea that the institutions in Northern Ireland don’t function is becoming normalised.”

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