Irish unity should be Fine Gael’s ‘mission’, Leo Varadkar tells party

Leo Varadkar has told the Fine Gael party that Irish reunification should be the party’s “mission” and that it can happen in his lifetime.

Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 9:22 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th June 2021, 4:12 pm

Leo Varadkar has told the Fine Gael party that Irish reunification should be the party’s “mission” and that it can happen in his lifetime.

Speaking at the party’s Ard Fheis on Tuesday night, the Fine Gael leader called on his party to increase its engagement with communities in Northern Ireland

Mr Varadkar said the “tectonic plates were shifting” in the region and called for his party to establish a branch across the border.

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Leo Varadkar has told the Fine Gael party that Irish reunification should be the party’s “mission” and that it can happen in his lifetime.

“It means the unification of the people of our island as well as territory of Ireland and it is a legitimate political aspiration.”

He added: “We should be proud to say that unification is something we aspire to. It should be part of our mission as a party to work towards it.”

He called for a Fine Gael branch in the region to increase engagement with communities there.

“Not with a view to contesting elections, but with a view to recruiting members and building networks with like-minded people including those in other parties,” he added.

“We need to reach out to all sides. And we need a presence on the ground to do so.”

He called for Fine Gael to develop its own vision of what reunification will look like, one that can appeal to middle-ground voters.

He said: “We know the crude vision espoused by Sinn Fein, it’s not an inclusive one – a cold form of republicanism, socialist, narrow nationalism, protectionist, anti-British, euro-critical, ourselves alone, 50% plus one and nobody else is needed. That is not a 21st-century vision.

“Our vision should be different. It should be one that has the best chance of carrying the greatest number of people with us, North and South.

“It should appeal in particular to that middle ground I spoke about earlier, to gain the support of people who identify as both British and Irish.

“So, unification must not be the annexation of Northern Ireland.

“It means something more, a new state designed together, a new constitution and one that reflects the diversity of a bi-national or multi-national state in which almost a million people are British.

“Like the New South Africa, a rainbow nation, not just orange and green.”

Mr Varadkar said consideration would have to given to what changes will be needed to Government, titles and symbols in a new Ireland.

He suggested that a new Senate could be established “to strengthen the representation of minorities, the role and status of our languages, a new and closer relationship with the United Kingdom”.

He also suggested that separate systems could be maintained in some areas, such as education and law, saying “unification is not assimilation”.

The comments were quickly criticised by unionists in Northern Ireland.

Emma Little-Pengelly, a former DUP MP and adviser to Arlene Foster, described the comments as “mad stuff”.

She tweeted: “Well, this is useful (not) at a time of huge concern and anger on the ground across all shades of Unionism about the Protocol, and while Unionism is trying hard to ensure a peaceful summer despite significant unrest. Mad stuff.”

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