IT isn’t often that a nationalist southern newspaper is in agreement with a lofty, unionist member of Britain’s House of Lords, but it is hard to argue with the logic of Ulster Unionist, Peer Lord Empey, regarding the Taoiseach’s contradictory remarks over Brexit.
Up to his meeting in Dublin, on Thursday, with French president Francois Hollande, Enda Kenny repeatedly said that Britain should not be bullied into making a quick exit from the EU by triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. That would put in train the formal process of leaving.
In the immediate aftermath of the referendum decision, the Taoiseach publicly supported then prime minister, David Cameron’s preference for Britain to be given breathing space, before it started formal negotiations on withdrawal.
This was in contrast to other EU leaders — particularly in France and Germany — who were demanding a quick exit.
Yet, in a joint statement issued outside Government Buildings on Thursday, Mr Hollande and Mr Kenny said they “looked forward to the notification, as soon as possible, by the new British government, of the UK’s intention to withdraw from the union, which will permit orderly negotiations to begin”.
Similarly, the Taoiseach has vacillated wildly on the prospect of a border poll on a united Ireland, as advocated by Sinn Féin, stating less than a month ago that there was no need for one. Yet, last week he indicated the opposite.
Speaking at the MacGill Summer School, in Glenties, Co Donegal, Mr Kenny said that a border poll should be on the agenda in any Brexit talks.
He was forced to row back on that in the Dáil, in the light of unionist anger at his remark. Lord Empey described it as “foolish and dangerous talk that meekly mimics Sinn Féin and serves no good purpose”.
It also creates huge confusion about who is leading the political agenda in Ireland. Sinn Féin is attempting to do so, with some success in the Republic, even prompting Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar to say that he felt there would be a united Ireland in his lifetime.
But that is just wishful-thinking and ignores the reality that, unlike in Scotland, there is no popular movement in the North to cede from the UK, as a result of the decision to leave the EU. Neither is there any noticeable clamour in the South for a united Ireland.
The Taoiseach was in Cardiff yesterday, at a special meeting of the British-Irish Council, to discuss the implications of the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.
Carwyn Jones, the First Minister of Wales, is seeking his support to ensure that Welsh businesses will still be able to trade with the EU, after the UK leaves. Instead of following Sinn Féin’s agenda, Mr Kenny should work with the Council, the British government, and fellow EU member states to secure the best deal possible for the UK.
That would be in the best interests of the whole island of Ireland.
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