Belfast Telegraph

Leo Varadkar 'very much opposed' to a united Ireland referendum

Leo Varadkar on the cover of Time magazine
Leo Varadkar on the cover of Time magazine

Ireland's new Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said that he is "very much opposed" to a referendum on a united Ireland in a wide-ranging interview with Time magazine.

Mr Varadkar was quizzed on a number of issues, including Brexit, the Apple tax case, and what his relationship with American President Donald Trump was like.

In the interview it was put to the new Taoiseach that a number of people - including his predecessor Enda Kenny - had said that the case for a referendum on a United Ireland would grow after Brexit.

"It’s something I’m very much opposed to, first of all because I think it would be defeated," he responded.

"Unless people who voted for unionist parties are suddenly going to vote for a united Ireland, which I don’t believe will happen, a border poll will be defeated. So it would not achieve a united Ireland but what it would do is give rise to further nationalism, further sectarianism and further polarisation."

The new Taoiseach said that it was "the last thing we need in the current environment" and that he could "understand why Sinn Fein are promoting it because that is the kind of politics they want to promote".

That’s not the kind of politics I believe in, what I believe in is the politics of John Hume who spoke less about united Ireland and more about an agreed Ireland, that we need to agree the arrangements and the relationships, north and south, east and west Leo Varadkar

In the interview he also reflected on the potential for damage that Brexit could have in the instance that it meant the reintroduction of a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

"We would prefer if it wasn’t happening," he said.

"We still hope that at some point Britain will change its mind. I’d like them to stay in the European Union, failing that I would like Britain to stay in the Single European Market and failing that I’d like them to stay in the Customs Union."

"Our overriding objective in any negotiations is to ensure that we avoid any return to an economic border on the island of Ireland because that could affect our peace process, it would certainly affect the Good Friday Agreement which is really predicated on the idea that both countries are in the European Union and borders wouldn’t matter, so that is our overriding concern."

When asked about his sexuality, the new Taoiseach also mentioned Northern Ireland as a place where LGBT rights are "under threat" and that he wanted to use his office "to advance the concepts of equal rights before the law".

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