I believe there will be a united Ireland in my lifetime, Varadkar says

Irish premier Leo Varadkar believes there will be a united Ireland in his lifetime.

The Taoiseach also urged people to consider those in Northern Ireland who identify as British, and what actions could be construed by them as “deeply offensive”.

Mr Varadkar made the comments after being asked about the Wolfe Tones, an Irish folk band that drew the largest ever crowd to a tent at the Electric Picnic music festival in Stradbally, Co Laois, at the weekend.

The Wolfe Tones have subsequently announced their 60th anniversary concert on October 12 at Dublin’s 3Arena, which has a capacity of 13,000.

The band regularly spark debate over their song Celtic Symphony, which contains the words: “Ooh, ahh, up the Ra.”

Asked about the popularity of the band, Mr Varadkar said he was at the music festival at the weekend but “didn’t get a chance” to see the Wolfe Tones or the Saw Doctors.

“I probably have a more sanguine view of this than maybe other people,” he told RTE Radio’s News at One.

“People like ballads and they like songs that they can sing along to.

“I think some people maybe read too much into the politics of this.

“But there is one thing that I would say: I believe we are on the path to unification.

“I believe that there will be a united Ireland in my lifetime, and in that united Ireland there is going to be a minority, roughly a million people who are British.

“And you judge the success and the quality of a country by the way it treats its minorities and that’s something we’re going to have to think about.

“Because what is, you know, a Republican ballad – a nice song to sing, easy words to learn for some people – can be deeply offensive to other people.

“Bear in mind in the southern (US) states, for example, when people sing about the confederacy and Robert E Lee, they think it’s an expression of their culture and so on, and that’s what they say.

“But that is deeply offensive to the minority, the black community in America and if we’re going to unite this country and unite the people of this country, a bit like (Co Down comedian and The Late Late Show host) Patrick Kielty says, we just need to have a think about how our words and how the songs we sing might be heard by other people.”

Mr Varadkar faced some criticism for stating in 2021 that Irish reunification could happen in his lifetime.

In January this year, he declined to answer whether he thought there would be a united Ireland in his lifetime during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum in Davos.

He said at the time that EU-UK talks on renegotiating the Northern Ireland Protocol – arrangements that outline post-Brexit trade arrangements for the region – had reached a sensitive stage.

Opposition party Sinn Fein has repeatedly called on the Irish government to set up a Citizens Assembly on Irish unity, which would see 100 citizens discuss issues around how unification would work in practice.