Setting an early date for a border poll would be 'wrong' — Tánaiste

Leo Varadkar pushes back at calls for an imminent vote on a united Ireland and emphasises the need to talk to 'the middle ground'
Setting an early date for a border poll would be 'wrong' — Tánaiste

Speaking on the border poll debate on Claire Byrne Live last night, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said holding a border poll imminently would be like 'setting a date for a marriage before you've had a courtship'.

Setting a date for a border poll now would be "wrong", the Tánaiste has said.

Leo Varadkar said that to do so would be like "setting a date for a marriage before you've had a courtship".

Mr Varadkar said that while he would not want to change the flag or anthem of Ireland, a united Ireland would take in one million people who identify as British, which would mean discussions around such titles as his own, or the term 'taoiseach'. 

He said that the key to any talk on reunification would be "talking to the middle ground".

The 'genius' of the Good Friday Agreement

Speaking in a televised debate on Claire Byrne Live last night, Mr Varadkar said that the Good Friday Agreement was "genius" and needed to work better but claimed that Sinn Féin's demands for a border poll in the near future would be "divisive".

Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald said that "preparation must begin" on the constitutional change which would bring about a united Ireland. She said that the "conversations around a united Ireland" were focused on practical issues such as housing and health, and said her party was not focused on flags and emblems.

McDonald emphasises 'nation-building'

Ms McDonald said that Ireland was now in the "endgame" of the conversation around a united Ireland, and that it was now a case of "nation-building". She said that the lessons of Brexit were "prepare, prepare, prepare". She said that preparation must happen immediately.

"It will be a challenge, but we can get there."

No 'prescription' for a United Ireland

The Taoiseach says that he wants to see a united Ireland, but said that it must "unite people by agreement".

Speaking on Claire Byrne Live, Micheál Martin said that this was "a Wolfe Tone republicanism" and said that his Shared Island unit was an opportunity to form economic and social bonds ahead of any conversation on a United Ireland.

The Taoiseach said that he had had a "Brits out mentality" until going to the North in 80s as a student where he made friends with loyalists and unionists.

He said that he had been "privileged" to be part of the Government that brought about the Good Friday Agreement which he said was not working as well as designed currently. He said that it was important to "work together" on north-south issues.

Mr Martin said that there was no "prescription" for what a United Ireland would look like. He added that governance structures would have to "reflect parity of esteem". He said that the three relationships - north and south, nationalist and unionist and Irish and English - would continue to be crucial.

The Taoiseach said that there was "a competition to be the best Republican" and said that Sinn Féin had "contributed to division" and rejected the idea that ads placed in US papers by Sinn Féin's US arm had begun the conversation on preparing for a border poll.

Mr Martin said that putting dates on a border poll "was not the route to go" and "not helpful".

GAA pundit Joe Brolly, meanwhile, tweeted that he had been taken off air because of comments he made about the DUP

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