Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has expressed his belief that the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland could be reunited within his lifetime. Discussing the potential for a reunification during an interview with state broadcaster RTE, Varadkar acknowledged that a reunified Ireland would likely result in a minority group of around one million people who identify as British. This minority group would emerge due to the current division of the island between the independent Republic of Ireland and the UK’s partial province of Northern Ireland.
Varadkar emphasized that the success of a reunited Ireland would be determined by how it treats its minorities. He stated that the government of a reunified Ireland would need to consider the cultural issues that could arise from such a reunification. Specifically, Varadkar highlighted the need to address aspects of Irish culture that might make British minorities feel unwelcome. He cited the issue of republican ballads that reference the Irish Republican Army (IRA), a paramilitary organization that used controversial means, including terrorism, to fight for the island’s liberation from British rule.
According to Varadkar, certain republican ballads can be deeply offensive to some people. He mentioned a recent performance by the group The Wolfe Tones at a major music festival, which included the audience response “Ooh, Aah, Up the Ra” – lyrics widely associated with the IRA – and caused outrage. Varadkar suggested that a reunified Ireland should take into account the words of Northern Ireland comedian Patrick Kielty, whose father was murdered during the Troubles, an ethno-nationalist conflict between unionists and Irish nationalists that took place in the second half of the 20th century. Kielty had expressed the need to make British minorities feel welcome, including refraining from singing IRA-related songs.
While Varadkar has expressed his belief in the potential for a reunified Ireland, a spokesperson for the British government has stated that there is currently no basis for such a reunification. The spokesperson reiterated that Northern Ireland will remain part of the UK for as long as the majority of its people wish for it to be so. They emphasized that there is no evidence to suggest that a majority of people in Northern Ireland desire to separate from the United Kingdom, and that the region has a bright and prosperous future within the UK.
In summary, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar believes that a reunification of Ireland could occur within his lifetime. He acknowledges that this would result in a minority group of British-identifying individuals, and emphasizes the importance of treating minorities well in a reunified Ireland. Varadkar suggests addressing cultural issues, such as IRA-related ballads, to make British minorities feel welcome. However, the British government maintains that there is currently no basis for reunification and highlights the desire of the majority in Northern Ireland to remain part of the UK.