Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny raises prospect of United Ireland after Brexit vote

James Nickerson
Follow James
European People's Party Congress in Madrid
Kenny compared Northern Ireland to East Germany (Source: Getty)

While the debate about Scotland's future in the European Union rages on, the prospect of Northern Ireland seeking to join the Republic has been voiced by the Irish Taoiseach.

Enda Kenny has said that a referendum on Ireland's relationship could be held in the future after the UK's vote to leave the EU last month.

Northern Ireland as a whole voted to remain in the EU, though there were strong clusters of support on both sides.

Read more: Scottish politicians to visit Brussels in effort to explore options for Scottish links to EU

"The discussion and negotiations that take place over the next period should take into account the possibility, however far out it might be, that the clause in the Good Friday Agreement might be triggered," he said, "in that if there is a clear evidence of a majority of people wishing to leave the United Kingdom and join the Republic, that should be catered for in the discussions," the Belfast Telegraph reported Kenny to have said.

"Because if that possibility were to happen, you would have Northern Ireland wishing to leave the United Kingdom, not being a member of the European Union, and joining the Republic, which will be a member of the EU."

The Good Friday Agreement stipulated:

  • That the majority of the people in Northern Ireland wished to remain a part of the UK;
  • That a large section of people in Northern Ireland, and the majority of the people of the island of Ireland, would like to see a United Ireland.

However, it added Northern Ireland would remain a part of the UK until a majority of the people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland wished otherwise.

Kenny also told the audience that the North-South trade links were more important in terms of volume to the North, adding that the Common Travel Area had a "legal status" and officials were working to clarify this.

Read more: May has revealed plans to create three new cabinet committees to work on the pillars of her premiership

He also made a comparison with East Germany:

So in the same way as East Germany was dealt with when the wall came down, was able to be absorbed into West Germany and not to have to have to go through a torturous and long process of applying for membership of the European Union.

So when Northern Ireland voted to stay [in the EU], who knows what might happen in the time ahead? I am just making the point that these are the kinds of things that should be looked at in the broadest of ways in discussions that take place.

"People said it would be impossible that Britain would leave the European Union; that has taken place now."

Sinn Fein would be in favour of such a vote. However, First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster has previously shot down any idea of an all-island forum to deal with the fallout of Brexit.

She said that existing cross-border bodies are the best way to deal with the UK's withdrawal from the EU.

Related articles