Bertie Ahern says loyalists have no idea about protocol

Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said loyalists who oppose the Northern Ireland protocol «have no idea» how it works.

Speaking at an event hosted by the Brexit Institute at Dublin City University (DCU) on Thursday, Mr Ahern said they view the arrangements solely as about identity.

The former Taoiseach said post-Brexit arrangements are not properly understood by society, and are seen as a back door to a united Ireland.

He said: «I spend a lot of my life in the North. The reality in East Belfast and in the ghettos and in the areas where you’re likely to have problems, is that people don’t have a clue about the protocol, not an idea.»

They see it as an identity.

“They see it as a way for the Dublin government to take matters into its own hands again and this is a way to get there. That is the hard truth.”

The protocol is designed to prevent a difficult border on the island of Ireland, by introducing controls in the Irish Sea on goods moving between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The EU and UK remain deadlocked in negotiations over its implementation, as new barriers to trade between East and West create tensions in some loyalist and unionist communities.

Mr Ahern, a former Fianna Fáil leader and one of the architects of the Good Friday Agreement, said the idea that the protocol was about trade was «just going through them».

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He added: «Indeed they are not interested. The South views it as a ploy to move the frontier from all over the island, and put it in the Irish Sea, as a trap for the government.»

“This is how they see it. Even those you might consider to be more intelligent and expressive. That is the difficulty.”

Mr. Ahern said negotiations on the protocol were made more difficult by this view.

He said, «We try to do two things. We try to solve the difficulties of medicine, meat and everything else in the protocol.

“But there is another issue in the protocol, and that is what is in the head and the ideological issue, and it is a much more difficult issue to deal with.

«(DDP leader) Jeffrey Donaldson understands very well how we can get through the details, and the reason he keeps talking about the other issue is because he’s trying – which I don’t blame him – he’s trying to serve the loyal community as a good thing.»

Secretary of State and Defense Simon Coveney (Niall Carson/PA)

Speaking earlier, Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said the EU had presented a comprehensive package to the UK, aimed at mitigating the effects of the protocol.

«This package represents an important compromise for the European Union,» he said.

“The lack of any apparent mutual willingness to compromise from our UK partners thus far has been very disappointing.

The Protocol was approved by Lord Frost and Prime Minister Johnson, approved by this British Government and ratified by the current British Parliament.

“They have a duty to fulfill their obligations.

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«It is very important that we do not lose sight of the objective here, and ensure a better outcome for the people of Northern Ireland.»

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