Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
By Evan Short
Fine Gael were always considered the party on the island of Ireland most opposed to reuniting the country outside of northern unionists, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny stunned an audience in Donegal this week when he said that the European Union should prepare for a border poll.
His comments followed a similar view from Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin at the weekend that suggested Brexit could lead to a reunification of the country.
The taoiseach made his comments after he delivered the John Hume Lecture at the MacGill Summer School.
He said Brexit meant it was increasingly likely the island would be reunited and that the South taking in the North would be similar to the reunification of Germany.
“The discussion and negotiations that take place over the next period should take into account the possibility, however far out it might be, that the clause in the Good Friday Agreement might be triggered in that if there is a clear evidence of a majority of people wishing to leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic, that should be catered for in the discussions.
“Because if that possibility were to happen, you would have Northern Ireland wishing to leave the United Kingdom, not being a member of the European Union, and joining the Republic, which will be a member of the EU.”
Mr. Kenny’s comments were swiftly rejected by the new Northern Ireland Secretary, James Brokenshire, who despite Britain saying in the past it has no strategic interest in remaining in Ireland, indicated that London would oppose any border poll in the near future.
Not surprisingly, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams welcomed the comments of both the taoiseach and Micheál Martin.
“I want to welcome the Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin’s support for a potential referendum on Irish unity at the MacGill summer school in Glenties yesterday,” Adams said.
“It is incumbent on all of us who aspire to a united Ireland to become persuaders for a referendum, and I hope he will join with Sinn Féin and others in that endeavor.
“I also want to welcome his support and that of other political leaders for an island-wide dialogue in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum result. There is now an opening to examine new relationships for everyone who lives on the island of Ireland and we should seize that opportunity. I have written to the Taoiseach today to move this process forward.
“Given Fianna Fáil’s recognition of the Scottish vote to remain in the EU, I am glad Micheál Martin has come around to the view that the vote in the north should also be acknowledged and respected. I reject his criticism, in the name of party political point scoring, of Sinn Féin in government in the North.
“In the wake of the Brexit vote Sinn Féin said that an opportunity existed for the referendum on Irish unity contained in the Good Friday Agreement.
“I welcome the fact that after some initial criticism of our proposal the Fianna Fáil leader and the Taoiseach have come around to this position also.”