Taoiseach says he is a 'neighbour not an invader' and predicts United Ireland vote would not pass in coming years

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has moved to calm unionist fears over the possibility of a united Ireland in the near future, saying he sees himself as a "neighbour not as an invader" and predicting a united Ireland vote would be lost if it occurs in the coming years.

Speaking during an historic first visit of a sitting taoiseach to the headquarters of the Orange Order in East Belfast, Mr Varadkar said "my mother brought me up to very good manners" and that he wants a friendly relationship between the north and south.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (left) is welcomed to the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast by the Grand Master of the Orange Lodge, Edward Stevenson as part of his visit to Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo.

Asked about the unionist view of him due to comments in recent months and concerns raised this week by former DUP leader Peter Robinson about the possibility of a united Ireland in the future, Mr Varadkar said:

My mother brought me up to have very good manners. I see myself as a neighbour not as an invader, as the head of government in another jurisdiction.

He added his sole intention on visits to Northern Ireland is to "reach out" to both Irish citizens in the province and others who want to remain part of the UK.

Asked about the prospect of a united Ireland poll in the near future, Mr Varadkar added that he believes such a vote would be lost if it took place in the coming years - and insisted it must be a once in a generation vote if it does happen.

On the first point, I don't think the time is right or the conditions are right now for a poll on Northern Ireland. I think it would be very divisive, it would fall once again on traditional lines.

"I don't think it should be every three years, five years or seven years, the point he [Peter Robinson] was making was that decisions like that should be once in a generation," Mr Varadkar said.

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