Irish Taoiseach Varadkar warns against calls for a United Ireland

Irish Taoiseach Varadkar warns against calls for a United Ireland. Photo copyright Department of Health CC2

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has warned against calling for a referendum on a United Ireland in the wake of Brexit because he believes the time is not right.

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Speaking at Féile an Phobail  (Community Festival ) in West Belfast, Varadkar said that a poll on unification could prove divisive in Northern Ireland and would probably be defeated. He said people calling for such a poll should realise that unification would not be a simple task of bolting the north back on to the rest of Ireland.

It would turn Ireland into a “different state” requiring a new constitution.

Irish Taoiseach Varadkar warns against calls for a United Ireland. Photo copyright Department of Health CC2

He was also concerned that there could serious problems if the vote was passed by a narrow margin, leaving unionists feeling isolated. “I think it would result in some of the mistakes being repeated 100 years ago at the time of partition, just the other way around, with unionists being brought into united Ireland against their will.”

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald has no such reservations. Also speaking at the festival, she said there must be a poll on unity in the wake of a no-deal Brexit, especially as Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.

Varadkar’s comments echo his concerns made earlier this year when he was being interviewed on radio. “I think, at the outset, a United Ireland worth having, is one whereby people are united, whereby everyone in the country would feel they’re part of the country, a country in which nobody feels they’ve been left out and that’s one thing I would always think when people talk about United Ireland in the traditional sense, bringing Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland together into a 32 county state.

“I would not like to visit on unionists in Northern Ireland what, I believe, was visited on nationalists and Catholics in Northern Ireland – people feeling that this wasn’t their state, that they weren’t really part of it, that they were bounced into it or left in it against their will.

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“That’s why, notwithstanding the difficulties in the last year or two with Brexit, I always try to be very sensitive to that fact, that there is a different tradition on our island, a different nationality, people who feel themselves to be British, and they are British and we need to respect that, and I don’t think if we ever had a United Ireland into the future that it could be just a bit like East Germany and West Germany – the Republic taking over the north.”

Britain is currently on course to crash out of the EU on October 31 as negotiations with the EU remain deadlocked.

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