Taoiseach criticized for not defending “right” to pursue reunification

Posted By: October 18, 2017


Distributed by the Irish National Caucus

“The Good Friday Agreement guarantees the right to achieve a United Ireland with a simple majority. No Dublin politician can come along years later and arbitrarily try to change the rules. …’No man shall have the right to fix the boundary to the march of a Nation.’ And surely no Taoiseach should try?”

—Fr. Sean Mc Manus

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, October 18, 2017

 Outrage: Leo Varadkar, left, said he would not like The North’s
 constitutional status to change based on a 50 percent plus one referendum result.

LEO Varadkar has been criticised by nationalists after claiming a simple majority in a border poll would not be enough to secure a united Ireland.

The Taoiseach said he was not in favor of changing the North’s constitutional status on a “50 percent plus one basis”.

The remarks, made in an interview with the BBC, sparked outrage from Sinn Féin and the SDLP, who called on the Fine Gael leader to protect the Good Friday Agreement.

“I wouldn’t like us to get to the point whereby we are changing the constitutional position here in Northern Ireland on a 50 percent plus one basis,” Mr. Varadkar told last night’s Spotlight programme.

“One of the best things about the Good Friday Agreement is that it did get very strong cross-border support – that’s why there was a 70 percent vote for it.”

The Taoiseach added that if a border poll were held it was unlikely to result in a 70 percent endorsement for a united Ireland.

“Or anything remotely to that and I really think we should focus on making the agreement that we have work,” he said.

Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy yesterday claimed an overwhelming majority of people in Ireland support reunification.

He said the Dublin government should defend the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts, including the right to secure a united Ireland with a simple majority.

“The Good Friday Agreement is absolutely clear in enshrining the right of the Irish people to self-determination through referenda, north and south – if a simple majority vote in favor of reunification, both governments are then obliged to legislate for it,” the Sinn Féin negotiator said.

He also said there was an onus on the Republic’s government to plan for unity and to “become a persuader for unity”.

“As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Taoiseach should be seeking to defend the agreement in all its parts, not seeking to undermine it.”

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the Good Friday Agreement also gave prominence to the principle of consent and affirmed the right to bring about a united Ireland by referenda.

“The legitimacy of that aspiration and the right for the people of Ireland to exercise our right to self-determination on the basis of consent must be respected and protected,” Mr. Eastwood said.

“It would be unwise to attempt to renegotiate the principle of consent at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Mr. Eastwood said the Irish people had mandated the principle of consent in 1998 but also cautioned that it was “equally unwise to reduce a reunified Ireland to simply a numbers game”.

“The real challenge is to shape what a new and agreed Ireland will look like and how we can deliver that for the good of all our citizens,” he said.

“That is the challenge that all of us, north and south who believe in a new Ireland, must rise to.”

Meanwhile, speaking during a visit to storm-hit areas of Co Kildare Mr. Varadkar said the North’s two biggest parties were not close to an agreement.

The Taoiseach was asked about the state of the long-running negotiations to salvage Stormont’s devolved government.

“At the moment they are not close to a deal,” he said.

“Things did look encouraging at the start of last week and became less favorable during the week.

“There are big things to deal with.

“Brexit could have a huge impact on Northern Ireland, their public services are about to run out of money because the budget allocation is running out, they have big challenges in their health service, just as we do, and, as you know, they are facing some very severe water damage and, meanwhile, both the DUP and Sinn Féin are arguing about the intricacies of an Irish Language Act.