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Taoiseach says Ireland will not recognise result of Catalan referendum

Leo Varadkar told reporters today he was “distressed” by the scenes of violence.

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR has said Ireland respects the courts and constitution of Spain, but has criticised violence witnessed over the weekend in Catalonia.

Spain is a “friend and ally” of Ireland, he said – adding that he was “distressed” by the scenes of violence.

Police violence over the weekend marred an independence referendum for Catalonia banned by the central government.

The vote yesterday saw riot police move in on polling stations in Barcelona and other towns and cities in the Catalan region to stop people from voting, in some cases baton-charging and firing rubber bullets to disperse crowds.

More than 800 people received medical attention as a result of the crackdown, according to regional authorities.

The Taoiseach told reporters in Dublin today that it was particularly concerning to see such scenes take place in a European city. He said he didn’t believe violence provides solutions, adding that it only leads to “radicalisation”.

He also said that Ireland recognised the territorial unity of Spain, and will not recognise the result of the referendum.

Catalan authorities say just under 90% of those who voted backed independence. Turnout was just over 42%.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said, meanwhile, that it is ”following closely the ongoing developments in Catalonia”.

“With regard to the political context, it is the Government’s view that it is for Spanish citizens to determine for themselves their preferred constitutional and political arrangements through their own democratic institutions and in keeping with the rule of law.

“The reports and images of clashes, violence and injuries are of concern. There are strong historic ties between the people of Ireland and Spain.

Upholding the constitution and the rule of law in all its aspects is a key underpinning of a modern democracy. It is important now that steps are taken to reduce tensions and to find a way forward together. In this context, we note that the Spanish Prime Minister has indicated that he will discuss the issues with all of the parliamentary political parties.

Spain: Farmers in the streets of Barcelona Supporters of a 'yes' vote rally in Barcelona on Friday. Source: SIPA USA/PA Images

Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont today called for international mediation in the crisis, which has pitted his regional separatist executive against Madrid.

He said there “must be the presence of a third party, which must be international to be efficient”.

Just as he spoke to reporters, Catalans took to the streets of central Barcelona in droves to protest the violence, cutting roads to traffic and shouting: ”The streets will always be ours,” a phrase that has become the slogan of the pro-referendum movement.

Madrid had warned Catalan separatist leaders they could not hold the vote in a region deeply divided over independence, stating it was illegal and courts had ruled it unconstitutional.

But they had retorted that Catalans had a right to decide on their future and pressed ahead anyway.

Ireland ‘should be at the forefront’ 

Elsewhere today, Gerry Adams welcomed the result of the referendum and said the voice of the Catalan people “must be respected by the Spanish government and the international community”.

He said in a statement:

The people of Catalonia faced violent repression from the Spanish state over the last twenty-four hours.
Despite this attack on the democratic process, Catalans have voted for their independence.
The international community, especially the European Union, has an obligation to ensure that Catalonia can pursue the course of self-determination without fear. They must also hold the Spanish authorities to account for the violence that has been carried out against the Catalan people.
The Irish government should be to the forefront in defending Catalans right to decide their own future.

A number of Sinn Féin politicians, including MEP Lynn Boylan and TD Eoin Ó Broin travelled to Catalonia at the weekend as guests of the Catalan government to observe the referendum.

- With reporting from AFP 

Read: Catalan leader says region has won right to independence after 90% vote Yes in chaotic referendum >

Read: Trumpets, tiaras, and trainspotting notebooks – a journey through Irish Rail’s lost and found >

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