Varadkar won’t rule out Citizens’ Assembly on United Ireland

The Irish Premier has said he would not rule out a Citizens’ Assembly on a United Ireland, but questioned whether Unionists living in Northern Ireland would partake in it.

Leo Varadkar told the Irish Parliament on Tuesday he would not rule out holding an assembly, but said it is a very “sensitive time” on both sides of the border in Ireland.

Sinn Fein has been calling for the establishment of an all-Ireland Citizens’ Assembly to discuss the potential for Irish unity.

“We should not forget what the Good Friday Agreement is all about. It’s about acknowledging that Northern Ireland has a unique history and geography, and therefore, has special arrangements regarding powersharing in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“When it comes to issue of a Citizens’ Assembly, as I said before it’s certainly not something that I rule out and it is something that I will give consideration to at the right point in time.”

Mr Varadkar said the current political stalemate at Stormont and a General Election being held in the UK means now is not the right time to call for a Citizenss’ Assembly, adding it is a “sensitive time”.

“We are two weeks or so from Westminster elections which are happening in Northern Ireland, as well as in Great Britain. The Northern Assembly are not functioning and the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is in the balance.

“We might find ourselves in two or three months’ time in a very different place. We might find ourselves in a more stable situation and in a better political environments to progress these kinds of ideas.”

Mr Varadkar said if Unionists living in Northern Ireland did not take part in the Citizens’ Assembly, it would skew the results.

“I think we need to bear in mind – would unionists participate in the Citizens’ Assembly? A million of them, making up half the population in Northern Ireland on a very significant minority on this island. Would British citizens living in Northern Ireland participate in the Citizens Assembly?”

“And if they would not, that would fundamentally change the nature of that Citizens’ Assembly, because it would seek to discuss the constitutional future of this island,” he said.

Mr Varadkar added if Unionists did not partake, the Citizens’ Assembly would become a “pan-Nationalist” assembly, rather than one representing citizens across Ireland.