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Dublin: 20 °C Thursday 6 August, 2020

A border poll now wouldn't be a good idea because 'it would be defeated', Varadkar says

The Taoiseach has said that the focus now should on restoring the Northern Irish assembly “all in a wider reasonable context”.

Image: Shutterstock/Alexandros Michailidis

HAVING A BORDER poll on a United Ireland now isn’t a good idea because it “would be defeated” and that would be “decisive”, according to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

The Taoiseach told reporters that the recent results of the UK general election which saw more nationalist candidates elected than unionists for the first time wasn’t a “one off”, but the focus now should be committing to the Good Friday Agreement and restoring power-sharing in the North.

“Let’s try and heal some of the divisions and differences that exist in Northern Ireland and among us all,” he said. “When we have the institutions up and running properly, well then I think there’s a time to have a long, long hard look at the institutional arrangements and the Constitution arrangements.”

If a border poll was to take place, the people of Northern Ireland would be asked whether they want to remain part of the United Kingdom or create a united Ireland.

Depending on the result, the Republic would then vote on the matter.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Secretary of State can initiate a border poll in circumstances where it is clear public opinion had swung towards Irish unity.

The Taoiseach has previously said he’d like to see a United Ireland in his lifetime, while a recently poll from Amárach/Claire Byrne Live suggested that 51% of people in the Republic of Ireland wanted to see a unity referendum in the next five years.

He said that parties supporting a United Ireland “don’t have a majority” at the moment and would fall short of the 50% plus one needed to win a border poll.

“And that’s why I don’t think a border poll is a good idea, it would be defeated and will be decisive,” Varadkar said. “I don’t see you would gain from that sort of scenario.”

He said the Good Friday Agreement and the restoration of the Northern Irish assembly were the priorities, and any conversations about a border poll should be done in the context of those institutions being respected. 

The Taoiseach added that the way forward on a United Ireland had to also include unionist voices in the conversation.

“I think any forum or assembly or convention that involves reviewing the Good Friday Agreement, or even moving on from it, that didn’t involve at least some piece or section of unionist opinion wouldn’t be the right approach,” he said.

You know we have to learn from our history, and we have to understand that there are a million people on this island who are British, and are unionists, and we need to respect that and make sure that they’re part of the future that they’re accommodated, and they feel part of the future.

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Sean Murray & Christina Finn

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