Beware a Brexit-based land-grab for NI, says Varadkar

Leo Varadkar
Leo Varadkar

A senior member of the Republic’s government has issued a warning to republicans not to use the UK’s pending exit from the European Union as an excuse for trying to re-unite Ireland.

Leo Varadkar, the social protection minister in Dublin’s minority Fine Gael government and a possible future party leader, said Brexit is being used by some to advance an agenda of reunification.

In what is likely to be seen as a veiled assault on Sinn Fein, Mr Varadakar said: “It was easy for some to jump on the Brexit result, and use it to make a land-grab for Northern Ireland. And it was counterproductive.”

Whilst he can foresee a united Ireland himself in the future, he said any reunification must be done through “respect and consent”, and by accepting the identity of unionists and “finding a special place for them to thrive”.

It must not be done through “crude majoritarianism in a border poll”.

Mr Varadkar was speaking at a commemoration of Michael Collins and Arthur Griffiths – key figures in the fight for Irish independence – at Dublin’s Glasnevin cemetery.

On June 23, Northern Ireland and Scotland both voted in favour of continued EU membership, whilst a 52 per cent-to-48 per cent majority of the UK as a whole voted against.

On Friday, Martin McGuinness said this result had created nothing short of a “constitutional crisis” for Ireland, adding that an EU border on the island was “not in our national interest”.

Meanwhile at the weekend. Ireland’s president Michael D Higgins said in a speech that Irish people must be prepared to “speak the truth” about the harsh realities of the independence struggle, including the “ruthlessness” of some of the old IRA’s actions.