Taoiseach walks back from talk of united Ireland poll

Taoiseach walks back from talk of united Ireland poll

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has further distanced himself from talk of a post-Brexit united Ireland poll after Northern Ireland's First Minister told him to concentrate on "reality" instead of "summer school" comments that cause "instability" in the province, writes Fiachra Ó Cionnaith, Political Reporter.

However, despite the clear u-turn, the Fine Gael leader has stressed the country is still not "going back to the days of check points and towers" amid heightened talk of a hard border between north and south developing.

Speaking at an emergency meeting of the British-Irish Council to discuss member states' individual concerns in Wales yesterday, Mr Kenny admitted a possible united Ireland vote "is not going to be the case now or in the medium term, or perhaps ever".

At the MacGill summer school in the Glenties, Co Donegal, on Monday, Mr Kenny said a vote on re-uniting the Republic and Northern Ireland was now a possibility in light of the Brexit vote.

The Taoiseach said this was because Northern Ireland had voted to remain in the EU, and that the clear break by Britain from the common market means the border issue is now back on the agenda.

Senior Government sources have indicated Mr Kenny's comments were directed at Germany in a bid to convince it Ireland is a special case in the post-Brexit negotiations.

However, despite the intention the remarks have led to a short-lived controversy on both sides of the border, with Mr Kenny forced to step back significantly from the position yesterday after meeting with Northern Ireland's first minister Arlene Foster and others in Cardiff.

"Maybe he should stay away from Donegal on the weeks in the summer and give some thought to other things," Ms Foster told reporters yesterday.

"But seriously, I think it [talk of a united Ireland vote] has been unhelpful maybe in the way which it has come over.

"That's all very well at summer schools and what have you, but I have to deal with reality and they have to be prepared for the people of Northern Ireland moving forward in this new era," she said.

Despite taking a clear step away from talk of a border vote in the near future due to the Brexit fallout, Mr Kenny re-iterated his position yesterday that no hard border will return regardless of Britain's decision to leave the EU.

Due to last month's historic Brexit vote, the line between the Republic and Northern Ireland will soon be the only part of the common market which touches a non-member state but does not have hard border.

The issue has raised legitimate security questions for other EU nations, most notably Germany, whose chancellor Angela Merkel last week ruled out any "special case" deal for Ireland in light of the emotive nature of the border.

In addition, during yesterday's meeting of the British-Irish Council - which consists of the Republic, Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland, England and the channel islands - Northern Ireland's deputy first minister Martin McGuinness said there are "huge concerns about the prospect of a hard border" developing.

However,responding to the concerns yesterday, Mr Kenny insisted no hard border will emerge, saying Ireland is not "going back to the days of check points and towers" and that there will be no hard border.

New Northern Ireland secretary James Brokenshire said "I do not want to see a return to the borders of the past".


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