Varadkar opposes unity referendum


Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has expressed his surprise at remarks made by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, during an interview with Time Magazine, in which he says that he is ‘very much opposed’ to a referendum on Irish reunification.

Since his selection as the new leader of the Fine Gael party, Varadkar has been revelling in the attention of the international media as a youthful new Irish national premier, who is of mixed race and who is openly gay.

However, his public statements have been inconsistent, and in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine, he appeared to do a ‘solo run’ by declaring he is “very much opposed” to a referendum on a united Ireland.

In the interview it was put to the new Taoiseach that a number of people - including his predecessor Enda Kenny - had said that the case for a referendum on a United Ireland would grow after Brexit.

“It’s something I’m very much opposed to, first of all because I think it would be defeated,” he responded.

“Unless people who voted for unionist parties are suddenly going to vote for a united Ireland, which I don’t believe will happen, a border poll will be defeated. So it would not achieve a united Ireland but what it would do is give rise to further nationalism, further sectarianism and further polarisation.”

The new Taoiseach said that it was “the last thing we need in the current environment” and that he could “understand why Sinn Fein are promoting it because that is the kind of politics they want to promote”.

Mr Adams said he was surprised by the comments.

“ This referendum is a central commitment of the Good Friday Agreement for which there is growing demand across Ireland,” he said.

“I am also surprised because in his manifesto for the leadership of Fine Gael, the Taoiseach stated, ‘We need to prepare for the possibility that a United Ireland or shared sovereignty will occur in our lifetime’.

“I have consistently argued that the Irish government should plan for Irish Unity and that the Taoiseach needs to be a persuader for ending partition.

“Irish Unity makes political, economic and social sense. Brexit has reshaped the context in which the national question is asked and considered.

“However, I welcome the fact that Mr Varadkar went on to say that he is in favour of ‘an agreed Ireland’ and that ‘we need to agree the arrangements and the relationships, north and south, east and west’.

“The Taoiseach does not say how he proposes to do this. Surely, it should involve a collective approach and the establishment of a forum in which ideas can be discussed. The Taoiseach must outline how he intends to advance this position.”

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