A new Ireland? 1,000 leading people call on Varadkar to lead change

Representatives of civic society seek dialogue on constitutional future of island of Ireland

More than 1,000 representatives of civic society across Ireland and among the diaspora have signed an open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calling for a "new conversation" about the constitutional future of the island of Ireland.

The letter also asks for the formation of a Citizens’ Assembly to reflect “the views of citizens North and South”, and welcomes the discussions it says are taking place among unionists about their future place on the island.

The letter, written by the Ireland’s Future group, and the full list of signatories are published in today’s Irish Times.

In the context of the “flux” created by Brexit and subsequent conversations about the reunification of Ireland, they point out that a majority in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU.


“It is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the democratic wishes and rights of Irish citizens are respected and protected, regardless of where they live on the island,” the letter states.

Democratic change

“Let’s have a discussion on how this can be achieved. We would urge you to start this process, based on the vision of democratic change set out in the Good Friday [Belfast] agreement. Start planning now.”

The same group organised the Beyond Brexit – The Future of Ireland conference which was attended by more than 1,500 people in Belfast in January.

It has also written twice to the Taoiseach, the first in December 2017, when more than 200 representatives of “civic nationalism” signed an open letter to Mr Varadkar urging him to “give voice” to concerns around Brexit, the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont and the undermining of rights.

Today’s letter is signed by 1,088 Irish citizens from across the academic, arts, business, community, education, health, labour, law, media and sports sectors on the island of Ireland and among Irish diaspora in the United States, Canada and Australia.

Two-thirds of the signatories are based in the Republic of Ireland, and one-third in Northern Ireland or abroad.

Among the high-profile supporters are actor Adrian Dunbar, singers Frances and Mary Black and Christy Moore, Ireland soccer player James McClean and former Cork hurling star Donal Óg Cusack.

Freya McClements

Freya McClements

Freya McClements is Northern Editor of The Irish Times