Exiled Catalan president Carles Puigdemont has spoken of his hopes to return home and for Catalonia to join the European Union as an independent State.
The separatist leader also said he wants the political conflict in Catalonia to be resolved “peacefully”.
Mr Puigdemont fled to Belgium in 2017 after his regional government held an unauthorised referendum on independence from Spain.
Spanish authorities took over the Catalan government for several months after a subsequent declaration of independence by the Catalan parliament received no international recognition.
The authorities are now prosecuting some of Mr Puigdemont’s former regional cabinet for being involved in the failed bid.
Speaking at Trinity College in Dublin about the current political situation, Mr Puigdemont said: “The Catalonia proposal is profoundly pro-European. First of all it was the Catalan people who chose to become a new fully fledged state in the EU under the rules of the European Union.
“Indeed, Catalonia in general has a clear desire to be part of European project as we feel profoundly involved.
“We firmly believe in the common European project and we are convinced that we have a future together. Our country, history and culture make us more stronger and more prosperous.
“Catalan people hope and trust that the political conflict of our nation can be resolved peacefully without war, without violence or without winners and losers.
“We reject all the violence used in the last century to resolve political conflicts.”
He told the large audience in Dublin that the independence referendum was held “under extreme conditions”.
He said: “Unfortunately, on October 1, we endured the rage of Spain that does not want to hear our voice.
“The Spanish police hit defenceless members of the public and injured over 1,000 people.
“The aim was to make people give up their right to vote.
“People overcame fear and went out to vote. We know many tried to do so unsuccessfully.”
He said that he and his former colleagues have been accused of crimes of rebellion and are facing prison sentences of up to 25 years.
“No violence action has been carried by the people who are being prosecuted,” he added.
Mr Puigdemont also held a private meeting with Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald.
Solidarity with the people of Catalonia. Meeting with Carles Puigdemont who has been forced into exile as well as Minister Jordi Puigneró pic.twitter.com/HJgTpixZbG
— Mary Lou McDonald (@MaryLouMcDonald) January 29, 2019
He would not, however, been drawn into whether he would support Ms McDonald’s call for a border poll.
He said: “I want to remain very respectful considering the internal domestic decisions. It’s not my duty or goal to talk about the Irish and UK relationship or what happens if there is a hard Brexit or no-deal.
“I have my personal opinion but I insist we must, as Catalan people, respect the decision of the UK and Ireland.
“Brexit is a matter of British people and we as Europeans we will back Ireland of course. We will help in order to correct the negative effects in the case of hard Brexit.”