Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said people would vote against a border poll if they weren’t presented with the facts first.
Ahern said he believed a referendum on unity should not be considered until all preparations were made and the “work done”.
He described the Northern Assembly election as “a great day” for Sinn Féin after the party leader called for a border election in the next decade.
The count resumed this morning in the Northern Ireland Assembly election, with around two-thirds of the current 90 seats filled.
“[Sinn Féin] are in pole position. I don’t think anyone predicted that they would all hold their seats, let alone that it’s a big day for them, there’s no doubt about that,” he told The Anton Savage Show on Newstalk.
“It’s a lot of trouble for SDLP. They were hoping to hold their own in Derry but that didn’t happen. After the reorganization, Sinn Féin did well again.”
This comes as Mary Lou McDonald said she believes a referendum on Irish reunification could take place within the next five years.
She spoke for the first time to a nationalist First Minister at Stormont, as Sinn Féin poised to become the largest party in Northern Ireland.
Ms McDonald said the partition had been “disastrous” and that there would be constitutional change on the island of Ireland within the next decade.
Asked if McDonald was correct in predicting a border election in the next decade, Ahern said: “In the Northern elections, there has been very little talk of a border election or of unity by nationalist parties.”
“The election was very much about what we know as the economic bread and butter of the day.
“The international media is baffled by the idea of unification, but that wasn’t the issue locally. They didn’t talk about the protocol and they didn’t talk about a border survey either. Of course it is constantly on the agenda, it has been on the agenda since 1998. The provisions for a border survey [are] there.
“Sinn Féin has shifted its position in recent years to a position that I have long articulated that you don’t have this survey until the job is done.
“I agree with you that some of the preparatory work is going on academically at the moment… but until you figure out what unity means, what kind of new Ireland it is, how would you bring it all together? There’s no point in having a choice until you do.”
He added: “How is this funded? How will the administration work? Where are the practical details? Where are the position papers?
“Although we’ve been chattering about it for years, it hasn’t happened yet. Until that work is done, the idea of a border survey – whether that will take two years, five years, I won’t say when – has to be carried out.”
“Otherwise you’re asking people to vote and you know what’s going to happen if you do that, they’re just going to vote no if they don’t see the facts and they’re not going to vote.”
Mr Ahern said Fianna Fáil now faces a “major challenge” to boost popularity in the polls.
“I used to almost lose sleep when we went below 40 percent, and that wasn’t long ago. Now people seem to celebrate when we go a little over 20 percent,” he said.
“It’s a big challenge. I think that organizationally, the FF needs to re-enact its ability to organize itself, attract candidates and have policies in the 40 constituencies.
“As it stands right now, Sinn Féin is in a very strong organizational position across the Republic. They don’t dominate everywhere, but in the last two years they have achieved 30 percent of the votes in polls. I think it’s not inevitable that they will go to 35pc. There is a great job to be done.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/people-will-vote-no-to-a-border-poll-unless-they-see-the-facts-former-taoiseach-bertie-ahern-41624999.html “People will vote no to a border election if they don’t see the facts” – former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern