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Bertie Ahern challenged those who backed a united Ireland to be prepared to ‘put in the hard yards’. PA

Bertie Ahern says a united Ireland is the ‘most desirable outcome for people and communities’

The former taoiseach is set to take part in a conversation event with the New Ireland Commission today.

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

The former leader, who played a significant role enabling the landmark Good Friday 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”.

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

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, 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.”

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

“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,” he said.

“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.”

Press Association