Bertie Ahern says John Hume would not have signed GFA without north-south element

Bertie Ahern has suggested John Hume would not have signed the Good Friday Agreement if north-south co-operation had not been built into it.

The former Taoiseach also said he would not have agreed to the amendment of Article 2 of the Irish Constitution to remove Dublin’s territorial claim to the whole of the island if the North South Ministerial Council had not formed part of the peace accord.

The NSMC and cross-border co-operation are dealt with under Strand Two of the agreement which was signed 25 years ago this April.

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Mr. Ahern made the claim at the NI Affairs Committee this week.

The late Pat and John Hume

"There is no doubt that the SDLP would not have signed up. You will remember that the last week [of peace talks] Strand Two was one of the central issues and John Hume and Seamus Mallon would not have recommended to [the SDLP] if it wasn't for a strong Strand Two.

"There is no doubt about that. Would I have made the constitutional changes in the south if there was no Strand Two. I think the answer to that is no as well.

"So therefore Strand Two is vitally important. It was a fundamental part of the agreement.”

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The former Fianna Fáil leader reminded MPs that the all-Ireland element of the GFA was widely discussed in the run-up to the referendum in May 22, 1998.

“There wouldn't have been an agreement in 1998 if there wasn't the aspiration. It was built on two things. It was built on consent but it was also built on the that there would be an aspiration to look at a new Ireland,” he told the committee.

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Mr. Ahern also claimed that Mr. Hume had played a key role in persuading both nationalists and unionists to accept the resurrection of Stormont.

This was covered under Strand One of the GFA which covered the democratic institutions in the north.

“It was the persistence of John Hume and Seamus Mallon - back to their earlier experiences of Sunningdale [the agreement of 1973 and short-lived power-sharing Executive of 1974] - which was 24 years earlier, believed, to make this workable, that we should have institutions and they had a job to convince parties on the nationalist side and the unionist side that this was the right way to go.”