Ahern says spirit of compromise promoted by Hume and embraced by McGuinness can unlock Brexit Protocol

Bertie Ahern has said the Brexit Protocol deadlock can only be resolved by ‘compromise’ observing it was a tenet John Hume promoted throughout his life and a step Martin McGuinness was prepared to take at the time of the Good Friday Agreement.
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The former Taoiseach who is credited as one of the main facilitators of the peace accord which was signed 25 years ago this April made the observation while briefing the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee at Westminster.

Reflecting on the historic peace talks in the build-up to the settlement, he said: "I do think there was a group of politicians across both nationalist, republican, unionist and loyalist communities that were prepared to work incredibly hard to try and see if we could get compromise.”

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The erstwhile Fianna Fáil leader told the committee that he remembers this as a message the late John Hume had been preaching from when he was a school boy in Dublin in the late 1960s.

Bertie Ahern with John Hume in Derry in 1998Bertie Ahern with John Hume in Derry in 1998
Bertie Ahern with John Hume in Derry in 1998

"Some of those had been doing that for decades, like John Hume, who didn't really change his message for 30 years. He was saying the same things when I was leaving school as he was saying when I was sitting across the table from him.”

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Mr. Ahern told the committee that the negotiated peace settlement would not have been possible if Martin McGuinness and the republican leadership at the time had not been prepared to compromise.

"I've watched all of the parties in the north - whether it was Gerry Adams or Martin McGuinness, whether it was the unionist leadership, my friends in the Alliance, whether it was people like Seamus Mallon who was always trying to forge and was prepared to compromise, people were very strong about that.”

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He said he feared an unwillingness to compromise could hold up a resolution to the Brexit Protocol stalemate.

"I do worry, people, if you don't make a decision you cannot be criticised too much. When you make a decision - and I've been victim of this for most of my 40 years in political life - when you make a decision you can be assured you are not going to get a unanimous view.”