Former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern believes that the “problems and challenges” of achieving a united Ireland can be overcome in the coming years.
In an interview with a leading Spanish digital newspaper, the former Fianna Fail leader described reunification as “feasible.”
And, in terms of the Republic, Mr Ahern believes that polls showing a majority of people there support Irish unity could translate into a ‘yes’ vote in a referendum with proper preparation on both sides of the border.
The 71-year-old father-of-two, one of the architects of the Good Friday agreement, told El Confidential: “The agreement states that there can be a reunification referendum.
“But in my opinion, before that can happen, two things must occur.
“First you need all institutions to be restored and running successfully for a sustainable period.
“And second you need some groundwork to analyse what a united Ireland would look like, how north and south could be integrated, how all the state agencies and their commercial and cultural organisations would function.
“Referendums don’t work when you ask people about scenarios that aren’t clear. It happened with Brexit and with the Scottish consultation.”
He added: “I see a plebiscite as possible for the end of this decade. But there are still many years left for that.”
“Academic work in this area has only recently begun. However, I believe that the problems and challenges associated with a new Ireland are manageable.”
“I believe it is possible. We are a small island with a population of seven million people between the north and south.”
In reference to the 100 or so peace wall barriers that separate Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland, Mr Ahern stated, “I believe that if many of them came down today, there would be no difference.”
“At some point, someone has to decide which ones can and cannot be removed.”
“People are, in some ways, ahead of politicians.” Most of the walls, I believe, can be removed with time.”