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No zeal for Irish unity despite Kenny's call

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 20/07/2016

Enda Kenny
Enda Kenny

Many people will have been surprised that the Republic's Taoiseach Enda Kenny brought up the idea of a border poll given that the ideal of Irish unity has been slipping more and more onto the backburner on both sides of the border.

Repeated polls have shown that even among nationalists in Northern Ireland there is a waning desire for reunification.

But the Brexit referendum victory has changed the political climate throughout the UK. Quite understandably Scottish nationalists are considering another independence poll there, given the overwhelming desire of the Scottish people to remain in the European Union.

Northern Ireland also voted to remain, so it takes no great leap of imagination to see how Irish unity is again being mooted as a potential consequence - no matter how remote.

Naturally, as the leading political figure in the Republic, Mr Kenny has a right to have an opinion on reunification and it is proper that he should air his views. All political parties in the Republic pay at least lip service to the idea of Irish unity, with Sinn Fein probably the only one with a current agenda working in that direction.

However, we would hope that Mr Kenny's comments to reporters at a summer school in Donegal were not made mischievously as some unionists suggest, but rather as his belief that all issues are now open for discussion in the changed political climate that will result in one part of Ireland remaining with the EU and the other part leaving.

We would also hope that it was not a move by a Taoiseach under pressure from opponents and some of his own party to deflect attention from his woes or to gain some political traction from the Republic's electorate.

Of course, the problem for those who want a border poll is that there is no clear evidence - as is required - that the public wants it and that any poll would be likely to result in a vote for Irish unity. The previous Secretary of State as well as the current one have made clear that the triggers for a poll are not currently present.

Yet it would be foolish for anyone, especially unionists, to ignore Mr Kenny's remarks. Who could have foreseen the political turmoil in the UK in recent weeks - certainly few in politics did - and, as the move towards Brexit continues, who can tell what the fallout here will be?

Belfast Telegraph

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