Simon Coveney: “I don’t have to hide my nationalism”

Posted By: November 30, 2017

Simon Coveney said refusing to answer questions about a united

Ireland could have sent out the wrong signal. Picture by Hugh Russell


John Manley. Irish News. Thursday, November 30,  2017

DUBLIN’S foreign affairs minister has defended support for a united Ireland in his “political lifetime,” saying he should not have to hide his nationalism.

Simon Coveney was speaking to The Irish News days after his remarks to the Oireachtas Good Friday Agreement Implementation Committee were described as “aggressive” by DUP leader Arlene Foster.

The 45-year-old Fine Gael deputy leader told fellow TDs and seanadóirí he was a “constitutional nationalist” who aspired to a 32-county republic.

“I would like to see a united Ireland in my lifetime – if possible, in my political lifetime,” he said.

Mr. Coveney says he was disappointed that attention had focused on his comments on a united Ireland when he had spent two hours answering questions on a variety of topics relating to the Good Friday Agreement.

“To focus on two lines in the way some people did, I don’t think reflects the tenor of my contribution in the context of trying to reach out to both communities in Northern Ireland – anybody who sees the transcript from those hearings will see that.

“I was asked a question which was not in the context of a Brexit discussion and people have introduced this into the Brexit discussion, which is unhelpful.”

But Mr. Coveney is unapologetic about his nationalism.

“I’m a constitutional nationalist – I don’t have to hide that.”

He says a refusal to answer questions about a united Ireland could have sent out the wrong signal.

“For me to refuse to talk about these things when I’m asked a straight question almost suggests I’m ashamed to be a Nationalist – and I’m not.

“Just like no-one should be ashamed to be a Unionist either.”

But the Fine Gael deputy leader says he does not expect a Border poll “anytime soon.”

“For me, the context around the Border boll needs to be very different from what we have today.

“One thing the Irish government needs to do is reach out to both communities – but particularly to Unionist communities – to try and deal with the issues that some people understandably feel threatened by.”

With little sign of a breakthrough in efforts to restore devolution, the Foreign Affairs Minister says “nobody wants direct rule.”

“That would create tensions we don’t need,” he says.

“I don’t believe the policy gaps between the two parties are huge but they are emotive and they are difficult in the context of two very divisive elections.”

In September, Mr. Coveney said there could be “no British-only direct rule.”

Speaking to The Irish News this week, he said the constitutional issues around Northern Ireland were settled, but Dublin would still have input.

“The British government is the sovereign government but the Irish government is co-guarantor of what is an international treaty, as well as an agreement between the two countries, and there are elements of that which require Irish input.

“By the way,  the British prime minister confirmed that in question time in the House of Commons.”

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