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United Ireland is 'further away' now due to RIC commemoration fall out - Varadkar

He pointed to opposition politicians and said an unnecessary controversy was caused.

Image: Leah Farrell

TAOISEACH LEO VARADKAR said the chance of a united Ireland is a “little bit further away” following the fall out over the controversial commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC).

The Government had faced pressure to cancel the event, which has been widely criticised by the public and politicians.

The event, which has been deferred, was to acknowledge the place of the RIC and the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) in Irish history.

Varadkar said Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan made the right decision to defer the commemorations planned for next week at Dublin Castle.

He said it had become an unnecessary controversy and “very divisive”.

“That’s something we’ve always tried to avoid when it comes to commemorations so I think it was the right decision to defer it,” he said.

He said he hopes to have it at a later date in a more appropriate way.

“There’s one thing that I would like to say though – I am somebody who firmly believes in a united Ireland and I believe a united Ireland in my lifetime is possible, but for a united Ireland to work it’s going to have to be a very different State,” he said.

“A State that recognises that there are over a million people on our island who identify as British and come from a Unionist tradition. We have to understand that as a country and island, we have a shared history.

“That people, north and south, Catholic, Protestant, unionist, nationalist, fought on different sides but they all fought for what they believed in.

“People north and south were victims of atrocities and were also involved in atrocities.

“We need to embrace and understand that shared history if we are going to build a united Ireland and it is my deep regret that this week embracing that shared history and moving towards united Ireland feels to me to be a little bit further away than it was before, and I regret that this is a setback for unity and a setback for reconciliation.

“I think that can be changed and I think there are lessons to learn and work to do.”

Asked whether he believes the controversy has been damaging to the party ahead of a general election, Varadkar said that “did not matter”.

He said the government has attempted to have commemorations that are respectful, inclusive and non-judgmental.

He continued: “I think we’ve achieved that, at least up until this most recent incident.

“Absolutely lessons can be learned, perhaps it could have been handled better, but I also regret that some elements of the opposition chose to misrepresent the event that was planned.

“False claims that it was to be some sort of celebration of the Black and Tans.

“I really regret that the opposition chose to do that, they didn’t have to do that but that was wrong and it is a setback for reconciliation and that’s sad but we’ll learn from it and have the commemorations on later date in a way that’s more appropriate, after due consultation with the opposition and others.”

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