Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar hopes for united Ireland in his lifetime

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar (Niall Carson/PA)
Mark Edwards

By Mark Edwards

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he would like to see a united Ireland in his lifetime.

The Irish premier (40) made the comments during a listener Q&A on Today FM on Friday Morning.

Asked if he would like to see a united Ireland on the Irish radio station, he replied: "I would, but only in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement so that is only in consent of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.

"That is really important stuff. Nobody should be forced into anything."

Mr Varadkar also said he has a good relationship with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The pair had a "private one-on-one meeting" in Cheshire earlier this month in a last-ditch effort to break the Brexit deadlock.

"He is the guy you see... like he is personable, he's intelligent, he's witty - he is very normal.

"You can talk to him about stuff, you know. Some politicians are really hard to talk to... He's a little bit eccentric, a little bit alternative," he said.

The two leaders have been in regular contact as they try and thrash out a Brexit deal.

The Irish Unity debate has come to the fore as politicians on both sides of the Irish sea struggle to reconcile Brexit and honouring commitments made in the Belfast Agreement which brought peace to Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O'Neill said earlier this week that a border poll will happen sooner than anticipated due to the Brexit upheaval.

Sinn Fein have previously said they wanted a border poll on a United Ireland within five years, but Ms O’Neill said Brexit could see it happening sooner.

A recent poll, published by Lord Ashcroft in September, found that 45% of those surveyed would want to stay in the UK, while 46% said they would vote to leave and join the Republic of Ireland.

The figures break down to 51% to 49% for unification when those who don't know and others who say they would not vote are excluded.

However, unionists and loyalist have begun mobilising to oppose the Prime Minister's Brexit deal agreed with the EU earlier this month.

Proponents of the union have said the deal would cut Northern Ireland off from Britain and eventually lead to a united Ireland.

Loyalists in Belfast held a meeting on Monday night to warn Boris Johnson that they "will not tolerate an economic united Ireland".

Spokesman Jamie Bryson said there is “immense anger” within loyalism around the current proposed Brexit deal.

"If this deal passes, there will be mass resistance from the unionist community," Mr Bryson said. "There are many different views on what form it will take."

The PSNI Chief Constable Simon Byrne said any Brexit deal - that threatens the union between GB and NI could lead to civil disorder from loyalists quarters.

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