‘Make sure your ducks are in a row’ – Bertie Ahern advises Rishi Sunak on Protocol as he launches Good Friday Agreement podcast

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says British prime minister Rishi Sunak needs to take his time and not rush into any deals as his government and the EU continue to negotiate changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol.

peaking at the launch of his new Newstalk podcast on the Good Friday Agreement in Dublin this evening, Mr Ahern said his advice to Mr Sunak would be: “Make sure you have your ducks in a row.”

“I think the idea that you can have this all wrapped up tomorrow or the next day is not a good idea. All the ducks have to be in a row and as I understand it – I could be wrong – the ducks are not in a row,” he said.

He made the comments after Mr Sunak held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, fuelling speculation that a deal over the protocol is imminent.

He also spoke with a number of business leaders in Northern Ireland via Zoom calls earlier today from a number of key sectors, including manufacturing, agri-food, construction and retail, and said he wanted to hear their perspectives on the protocol, according to RTÉ News.

The British government and the EU have been embroiled in negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is aimed at preventing a hard border with the Republic.

The protocol – agreed as part of the Brexit deal – kept Northern Ireland in the EU’s single market which has led to checks on products coming into the EU from Great Britain.

However opposition by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to the protocol led to the collapse of powersharing in the North. Powersharing was agreed to under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, of which Mr Ahern was one of the key architects.

Yet as the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches this April – putting pressure on the British government to get the Stormont administration up and running again before then –  Mr Ahern said he would advise Mr Sunak to “make sure you’ve done your preparatory work”.

“He’s a very clever man, I have no doubt, he’s a very successful person.”

Meanwhile, in an interview with Newstalk host Pat Kenny at the launch, Mr Ahern said “the first priority (of the Good Friday Agreement) was could we stop the killing?”

“There were 3,700 people killed, 47,000 injured, 36,000 shootings,” he said.

“Every morning it was the same story. What happened in the North last night? Who was killed? What did whatever church man say at the funeral,” he said, adding the atrocities committed during The Troubles were similar to what was happening at the same time during the Vietnam war.

He said it is important that the subsequent generations of Irish people since then, “know what happened, they know what the conflict was about.”

The nine-part podcast series, entitled As I Remember It: Bertie Ahern and The Good Friday Agreement begins streaming on Newstalk from February 23 and will feature three episodes each subsequent Thursday for the next three weeks.

It includes interviews with Mr Ahern and other architects of the historic peace treaty, including former US president Bill Clinton, former British prime minister Tony Blair and US senator George Mitchell.

Many of the key negotiators involved in the peace process, including John Hume, Martin McGuinness, David Trimble and Mo Mowlam, have since died.

However, Tony Blair’s former press secretary and journalist Alastair Campbell, who officiated at the launch, said: “The fact the living can keep telling the story is really important.”


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