FORMER TAOISEACH Bertie Ahern has said that a border poll is 'inevitable' within the next decade, making the prospect of a united Ireland in the near future a real possibility.
Mr Ahern, who was part of the negotiation team which created the landmark Good Friday Agreement, made the comments on LBC Radio on Saturday, 15 February.
Speaking to host Matt Frei, Mr Ahern said that the possibility of a border poll and subsequent chance of uniting Ireland has become more likely after Brexit.
The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the possibility of a return to a hard border following the UK's exit from the European Union, were one of the most difficult issues faced by politicians from both the UK and the EU as both sides attempted to reach a deal.
Now the former Taoiseach has said that while a border poll is now 'inevitable', various issues must be solved before a united Ireland can happen succesfully, including the Northern Ireland Assembly proving they can continue to work together following a three-year-long closure.
He also raised questions on how certain industries, which have major differences on either side of the border, could be merged.
"The proprietary work needs to be done," he told LBC, "and it has never been done, on ... how would you bring the police together, how would you handle the army, how would you handle the criminal justice system."
As things currently stand, the Republic of Ireland is policed by An Garda Síochána, while the North operates under the Police Service of Northern Ireland-- already a relatively new service following the Royal Ulster Constabulary being disbanded as part of the Good Friday Agreement.
Despite the work that would need to be done in order for the vote to be succesful, Mr Ahern admitted that "There will be a vote on that issue in the next decade, I think that is inevitable.
"What the result of that vote will be-- it'll have to be a vote in the north, it'll have to be a vote in the south-- is a different question."
When asked by host Matt Frei if Mr Ahern believed he would see a united Ireland in his lifetime, the former Taoiseach replied:
"If the proprietary work is done, if we can hand out the hand of friendship to unionists and loyalists, in a number of years-- even Sinn Féin accept it's a five year project-- I think somewhere in this decade, I think more towards the end of the decade, I think it's a possibility."
Mr Ahern has previously said that if the Good Friday Agreement had been properly utilised, there would likely have been a border poll within ten years of it being signed.
Speaking on the Floating Voter podcast in October 2019, he admittedthat when negotiations were taking place in regards to the GFA back in 1998, those involved had all expected a unity referendum to have taken place "in the first ten years".