Joe Brolly disconnected during RTÉ united Ireland debate after DUP remarks

DUP MP Gregory Campbell said united Ireland ‘isn’t going to happen’

Joe Brolly appearing by video link on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live. Photograph: RTÉ

Joe Brolly appearing by video link on RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live. Photograph: RTÉ


GAA pundit Joe Brolly was disconnected during an RTÉ discussion on a united Ireland on Monday night after the former Derry footballer and barrister made allegations against the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP).

Mr Brolly was responding to comments by DUP MP Gregory Campbell who told RTÉ’s Claire Byrne Live show that a united Ireland “isn’t going to happen” and claimed people involved in the debate “just don’t get it”.

“We are British,” said Mr Campbell. “Those three words, we are British. There’s nothing you can say, nothing you can do which will change that.”

In his response later in the programme, Mr Brolly said over video link the DUP was relying on short-term solutions to solve Northern Irish problems and accused the party of “laughing at the Irish language, laughing at Gaelic sports, the homophobia, the racism”.

Interrupted by Ms Byrne who said Mr Campbell “might deny some of those charges”, Mr Brolly asked “which ones will he deny” and attempted listing the accusations again. Ms Byrne again interrupted, saying she was bring the conversation back to the studio.

Ms Byrne later told viewers that she had “great respect for her guest” but that the programme “simply can’t stand over somebody name calling another person who isn’t here to defend themselves”.

Mr Brolly tweeted after the show: “I was taken off air and told it was because RTÉ could not risk me saying the DUP were homophobic, racist or sectarian. I must apologise to the DUP at once”. He attached screenshots to the tweet, and a number of subsequent tweets, which accused DUP members of using racist and homophobic rhetoric.

‘Cuckoo land’

In his interview, Mr Campbell said a united Ireland would never happen given the three minority groups living in the North – unionist, nationalist and a third of people who don’t identify as either.

He accused politicians in the Republic of “going off into cloud cuckoo land and trying to devise agreements that they know we won’t agree on”.

“What we all have to do is to try and devise systems of government in the Northern Ireland and in the Republic that all our communities are comfortable with. That no one feels threatened, no one feels in danger, no one feels like their citizenship or cultural identity is in danger in any way.”

Speaking on the same programme, former Irish rugby international player Andrew Trimble said he was concerned about the proposed timing of a border poll and called on the State to learn from the mistakes made during the Brexit referendum.

Mr Trimble said he had learned to “understand different perspectives and appreciate different understandings” through his time playing rugby for Ireland and said music and arts could also help inform the discussion around a united Ireland.

He warned that life in the North remains “binary” with some people still identifying as either “green or orange”. However, there is a growing middle-ground among younger generations who want to “respectfully talk and understand each other”, he said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald told the programme that preparation for constitutional change need to begin but that she wanted to work towards a united Ireland in an “orderly and planned fashion”.

“This is the incredible opportunity to realise an Ireland of equality, the kind of Ireland set out so poetically in the 1916 proclamation,” said Ms McDonald. “It’s an opportunity to recognise the things we have got wrong, that are broken and it’s an opportunity for us to fix those.

“We’ve come through conflict, we’ve come through peacemaking and we’re now into the end game which is about nation building.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar warned that setting a date for a border poll now would be “divisive” and that time was needed to consider what the vote would mean. Efforts are needed to support power-sharing in Northern Ireland and to reach out and speak to unionists and middle ground groups, said the Tánaiste. A conversation should also be initiated south of the Border regarding how this country will accommodate “a million people who identify as British and are British”, he said.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin agreed the focus should be a on developing “genuine dialogue” and warned of the risks of an ill-prepared referendum.

Mr Martin said he grew up with “simplistic views about the North” when the belief was “Brits out, everything would be solved”. During his time as a student, he went to the North and met with members of different political parties and families directly affected by the Troubles. “I went back to Cork with a changed perspective he said,” adding that he joined politics because of the Northern Irish situation

The Taoiseach warned that focusing on emblems such as flags and the national anthem could be “manipulated” and “stoke up the worst of people’s nature”. He added that calling a date for a border poll would not be “healthy”.

“The Good Friday agreement worked because people sought to understand the other person’s perspective. That’s what mature politics is about. It’s not saying we have a majority now, you have to come into my island whether you like it or not.”