Ah­ern ‘in­fu­ri­ated’ at col­lapse of North talks

Irish Examiner - - News - Elaine Lough­lin Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

Ber­tie Ah­ern has said he is sad­dened and in­fu­ri­ated by the col­lapse of talks in the North.

The for­mer taoiseach said he finds it “very hard to un­der­stand” why Sinn Féin and the DUP have thrown away their op­por­tu­nity to take up power on be­half of the peo­ple of the North.

North­ern Ire­land Sec­re­tary James Bro­ken­shire said he does not in­tend to ap­point min­is­ters to take po­lit­i­cal con­trol at Stor­mont. How­ever, on Mon­day, he in­tro­duced a bud­get for the North through the House of Com­mons as a re­sult of the im­passe—a move that has been seen as a step closer to im­pos­ing di­rect rule.

Mr Ah­ern, who was a lead­ing fig­ure in the es­tab­lish­ment of power-shar­ing in the North through the Good Fri­day Agree­ment, said: “Ev­ery­where in the world politi­cians want power, even where they are not democ­ra­cies, politi­cians want power and here we have a sit­u­a­tion in North­ern Ire­land where they are given power and they don’t want power.

“What I liked about pol­i­tics was be­ing able to deal with is­sues to do with health and ed­u­ca­tion and jobs in the in­ner city when we had high un­em­ploy­ment back in the 70s and the 80s.

“That’s what pol­i­tics is about and to be elected to a body that has the power to do these things and opt not to do them is very hard to un­der­stand.”

Mr Ah­ern was at the launch of the Fes­ti­val of Pol­i­tics in Dublin yes­ter­day.

Asked if the break­down in ne­go­ti­a­tions, which has sig­nalled a po­ten­tial move to­wards di­rect rule, has sad­dened and in­fu­ri­ated him, he said it had done “all of those things”.

“I think it has been a sad year, 2017, in terms of the in­sti­tu­tions, it has been re­ally re­ally bad, no de­volved gov­ern­ment, no work­ing across the party lines, the whole spirit of what should be hap­pen­ing is re­ally not func­tion­ing at all,” he said.

“The in­sti­tu­tions are so strong and so pow­er­ful. The de­volved in­sti­tu­tions have the pow­ers to do prac­ti­cally any­thing. Peo­ple work­ing to­gether work­ing across the lines and the old dif­fer­ences and com­mu­ni­cat­ing with peo­ple could make such a dif­fer­ence and par­tic­u­larly at a time with Brexit and all that en­tails and in­stead of that we have had a year of false dawns and dusks.

“I hope that we can jump­start [ne­go­ti­a­tions], but it’s not just a ques­tion of get­ting them up again, it’s peo­ple work­ing to­gether, co-op­er­at­ing, deal­ing with the is­sues of the day.”

For­mer taoiseach Ber­tie Ah­ern, Fine Gael TD Kate O’Con­nell and for­mer Ul­ster Union­ist Party leader Mike Nes­bitt with stu­dent ‘pro­tes­tors’ Ciara Brady, Ania Schuler, and Iria In­sua, at Tai­lors Hall, Back Lane, for the launch of Dublin’s Fes­ti­val of Pol­i­tics.

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