Taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said he had intended to step down as Taoiseach after the local and European elections next year.

Mr Ahern said he made the decision while reflecting back on the negotiation and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking on RTÉ Radio's This Week programme, Mr Ahern said the more he worked on the preparation for the Good Friday Agreement and the speech for the US Congress and the economic conference, it dawned on him that perhaps going into the local elections he was going to be speaking endlessly about things that happened 15 years ago.

He said that he would save himself and everyone else all of that rather than let it feed into what has been a great 30 years.

Mr Ahern said he is in a good position with his party, a united party and there probably might be a handful of people in the party who cannot tolerate him.

Mr Ahern recalled that as he informed his Cabinet ministers last Wednesday morning of his resignation, it was the only time in his life that he wanted to leave a Fianna Fáil meeting quickly.

He said all of the men and women were collectively crying and he thought: 'I don't need any more of this, get me out of here.'

In relation to the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Ahern said that while there were many stops and starts during the negotiations, he felt it was crucial that they stayed with it.

He said the prisoners issue was enormously emotive and a deal breaker and his memory of the talks was that if there was a way they would find it.

Mr Ahern praised David Trimble for making a brave decision in relation to the Good Friday agreement, but said his view is that Mr Trimble could have moved more quickly following the Omagh bombing.

He said Dr Ian Paisley and Mr Trimble know he is a supporter of a united Ireland based on the principles of consent.

He said a united Ireland can only happen in a longer term perspective of where every aspect of Irish life is integrated in a way where there is a tolerance and respect for people, that our shared history becomes our shared future.

He said he did not know how long term it would be.