He made the comments at the annual commemoration ceremony for Michael Collins and Arthur Griffith in Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery yesterday.
Mr Varadkar said he does want to see a united Ireland in the future.
However, in a clear reference to parties like Sinn Féin which wants a border poll as soon as possible due to Brexit, the Fine Gael TD stressed that such a move would be “crude” and disrespectful to the memories of Mr Griffith and Mr Collins.
“The only way we will achieve real unity is by respecting the different traditions, identities and values on this island, not by trying to obliterate them,” he said.
“During the Treaty debates, Arthur Griffith was criticised by another MP for meeting some southern unionists. He was accused of treating them as a privileged people.
“Griffith’s response was brilliant. To much applause, he explained that he ‘met them because they are my countrymen’.
“It was easy for some to jump on the Brexit result, and use it to make a land grab for Northern Ireland. And it was counterproductive.
“Often the people who speak loudest about republican values are the least when it comes to honouring them.
“The inclusive vision of Griffith is better than the opportunistic rhetoric of assimilation,” said Mr Varadkar, adding that taking the approach of a border referendum would be “crude”.
The comments came as Mr Varadkar also used his speech at Glasnevin to urge his own Government to focus on building a social recovery as much as an economic recovery in the upcoming budget.
Speaking as Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath said his party wants to see all details of the budget before it is published amid a likely confrontational build-up to the financial document, Mr Varadkar said that to ignore the need for social reforms would be to repeat the mistakes of “the boom years”.
“Economic gains on their own, without a vision for society to accompany them, will result in a squandered prosperity that will ultimately be unsustainable. We had that during the boom years. We must ensure that we do not have it again in the recovery years,” he said.