Brexit causing ‘tectonic plates’ of politics to shift, says Varadkar

Opinion polls showing rising support for united Ireland, Taoiseach tells party meeting

Leo Varadkar launches Féile An Phobail at St Mary’s University College, Belfast last Friday as part of his visit to Northern Ireland. Photograph: Laura Hutton/PA Wire

Leo Varadkar launches Féile An Phobail at St Mary’s University College, Belfast last Friday as part of his visit to Northern Ireland. Photograph: Laura Hutton/PA Wire

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the “tectonic plates” of Irish politics are shifting as a result of Brexit, with opinion polls showing rising support for a united Ireland.

Sources said he told the weekly Fine Gael parliamentary party last night, when speaking about a recent visit to Northern Ireland, that “the tectonic plates of Irish politics are shifting”.

Mr Varadkar spoke to his TDs and Senators about opinion poll figures against Brexit rising further, as well as some poll figures favouring the idea of Irish unity also increasing, although a number of strongly different poll outcomes have been published on the latter issue in recent weeks.

Some of those present at the meeting took Mr Varadkar’s comments to be reference to the prospect of a united Ireland, although a Fine Gael spokesman said the Taoiseach made no such reference. The Taoiseach is also understood to have said the focus would remain on Brexit for now.

Rejected

Such a statement is likely to be criticised by those such as the DUP, who have repeatedly rejected any prospect of Brexit weakening Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom.

Mr Varadkar spoke about the warm reception he received from both sides of the community in Northern Ireland during a trip last Friday, which saw him visit the headquarters of the Orange Order and the Féile an Phobail festival in west Belfast.

The Taoiseach also spoke about housing issues, and an anticipated motion of no confidence in Minister for Housing Eoghan Murphy. He said an election would happen if the motion is passed.

The confidence and supply deal commits Fianna Fáil to abstaining on such confidence motions, and Mr Varadkar predicted Micheál Martin’s party would “take a kicking” if they failed to support the Sinn Féin motion.