The majority of people in the North would favour the Brexit border deal rejected by the DUP, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.
Mr Varadkar said he is confident that the stalled agreement, which had laid out regulatory alignment across the island of Ireland after Brexit, could still be rubber-stamped before a crunch European Council meeting next week.
However, he warned that the DUP, who hold the balance of power in propping up Theresa’s May’s minority Conservative government, are not the only party in the North and said they do not represent the views of the majority of citizens in the North.
“I believe, and this is the most important thing, that the majority of people in Northern Ireland, if they were so asked, would like to have this agreement,” said Mr Varadkar.
“We will recognise the fact that the majority of people in Northern Ireland, and the majority of constituencies in Northern Ireland, did not vote to leave the European Union.
“Perhaps if the Northern Ireland Assembly was meeting today, it might even pass a resolution in favour of what was agreed, as a majority of the people elected to that assembly wanted to remain and the majority of the parties, including the Alliance Party, the Green Party, the SDLP and others, want to stay in the internal market and the customs union but, unfortunately, we have to deal with the situation as we find it.”
Mr Varadkar told the Dáil the Government wants to move to phase two of Brexit negotiations, but could not until given the “assurance we need” that there will be no hard border.
“As things stand, the ball is very much in London’s court,” said Mr Varadkar during leaders’ questions.
The Taoiseach agreed with Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said the collapse of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly has been “very damaging”, adding that these institutions now need to be restored as a matter of urgency, particularly in light of the continuing negotiations.
Mr Martin said that Brexit should be separated from the unity question, and not conflated.
“For me, Brexit is about the economic well-being of all our communities on this island — the bread and butter of daily lives — and not, as others advocated, an opportunity to pursue a united Ireland through border polls or otherwise.” he said.
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams told the Dáil that, from the very beginning, his party had called for a designated special status for the North within the EU.
He said the agreement is about more than trade and asked the Taoiseach if citizens’ rights and access to the European Court of Justice, and other European Union institutions, would be included.
Responding, Mr Varadkar said: “The principles, and the basic outcome that we want, are shared by all parties in this House, and I am encouraged by, and grateful for, the support we have received from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, and the other parties. We know what needs to be achieved and we are waiting to hear from London, as to how it wishes to proceed.
“There will be contacts in the coming days to see if there is a possibility of putting this agreement back on track, before the European Council meets on Thursday and Friday.”
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