At just the wrong time, Fine Gael leader flags up unionist weak spot

News Letter editorial of Thursday June 17 2021:

Thursday, 17th June 2021, 6:49 am
Updated Thursday, 17th June 2021, 7:01 am
News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The political crisis on this island deepens.

At just the time that the UK and DUP have failed to rule out yet fresh special treatment for Sinn Fein, to give republicans their Irish language act, fast tracked ahead of other devolved policies, Leo Varadkar makes a republican speech to Fine Gael.

After five years in which FG, the party that from its origins a century ago in opposition to anti treaty Irish republican extremists tended to be reasonable about the UK, has now become reliably anti British in its rhetoric, Mr Varadkar has come out in favour of a push for a united Ireland.

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“We should be proud to say that unification is something we aspire to,” he said. Unity, he added, “is in our constitution and is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement should a majority of people in the North and South vote for it”.

If ever we needed a reminder of how naive the UK was to give the people of the Republic a say in the future of an integral part of the UK, Northern Ireland, but not the great bulk of the population of the UK itself, this was not the time for it.

Mr Varadkar’s worst line was this one: “The views of unionists must be acknowledged, understood, and respected but no one group can have a veto on Ireland’s future.”

Far from the first part of that line being reassuring (lip service to respect) it is made queasy by its blunt ending.

Mr Varadkar is not, as some people said yesterday, discarding the Belfast Agreement on consent. He is, rather, seizing on the weakest point of that deal: that if unionists lose a 50% plus one vote, they cannot stop it.

Of course he claims he does not want such a narrow outcome. But, like the EU on the NI Protocol, he is making clear where the law puts us – that if a unification bid scrapes its way to victory, unionists will be pushed into the Irish Republic.

A Republic that showed during his premiership that it retains its underlying anti British instincts. The selfish, reckless and treacherous Boris Johnson, of all people, in his Protocol has pushed NI closer to the jurisdiction of such a state.

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Alistair Bushe