Politics

Relationship between Martin and Johnson the worst between British and Irish leaders in 35 years, says Ahern – The Irish Times



Relations between Micheál Martin and Boris Johnson are “poor” and are the worst between any prime minister and Taoiseach for 35 years, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said.

In a downbeat assessment on relations between the two States, Mr Ahern said the current atmosphere at Government level was “toxic”.

He said that that applied at all levels of Government but particularly at the level of the two heads of Government.

“Relationships are poor. Let us put it no stronger than that.

“I think that this is very disappointing (compared to) the last 30 to 35 years since the time of John Major and Albert Reynolds; followed in my time with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown; and followed up again with David Cameron and Theresa May.

“It should be noted and I would like to say (Ms May) was very helpful and really lost her job in the end because she stuck by an agreement that was made and lost her position and lost her majority on that position,” he said.

Speaking at an online seminar on Tuesday — organised by the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) — Mr Ahern pointed to a meeting between Mr Martin and Mr Johnson last month.

“As I understand it the Taoiseach and the prime minister had a meeting on the 10th of May and I think all reports I heard (back) from both sides of the water was that it was extremely bad.”

He said reports of other meetings between both sides had spoken of similar outcomes.

“Boris Johnson is a clever man,” said Mr Ahern. “He has proved that through his life (that he is) shrewd and has moved through the positions to get where he wanted to be.

He outlined the shifting position of the British prime minister at every stage of the process.

“As a negotiator I don’t think he has any great interest in negotiating.

“He said it was a wonderful deal, as he called it, to agree to the protocol in the first place. It was a wonderful deal to get the trade deal passed.

“It was no longer a wonderful deal as soon as he got Brexit done.

“It is quite clear from a very early date that it was a tactic to start moving away from what had been agreed,” he said.

Mr Ahern said that the State now faced a difficult period where the atmosphere was toxic. And while he was an optimist and believed solutions were possible, the unilateral decision by the UK to misapply most of the protocol was “very unhelpful”.

“The reality is that the negotiations since October have been little or none. Lord (David) Frost left on the 18th of December and (foreign secretary) Liz Truss took up the position. There was a meeting in February and there have been very few meetings since.”

He said that North-South co-operation ceased last September with no operation of the Good Friday Agreement since then. The Executive was stood down in February and a prolonged period of suspension now looked likely, he added.

Asked about a Border poll he said the question had been considered more ever since Brexit was floated six years ago.

He said there will be polls in the future but they will require conditions that don’t exist at present, including political stability and proper preparatory work having been done. He said at the moment that none of the questions have been prepared, or framed.

“The idea of having a poll when you can’t answer any of the questions is ridiculous,” he said.

“You would be asking people to vote in a poll where there is only one answer they can give and it is No.”



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