Leo Varadkar says United Ireland is 'further away' after RIC commemoration backlash

Leo Varadkar says United Ireland is 'further away' after RIC commemoration backlash

THE TAOISEACH has warned that the controversy surrounding the planned commemoration of the Royal Irish Constabulary and DMP has been a setback in the journey towards a future united Ireland.

The planned event was deferred following severe criticism from politicians and the public alike, with numerous councillors and mayors announcing their intention to boycott the ceremony, and a petition to cancel the event amassing over 40,000 signatures.

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan yesterday announced the deferment of the event somewhat reluctantly, citing the "disappointing response of some" but maintaining that the commemoration of the RIC and DMP would have been "the right thing to do".

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, speaking at the BT Young Scientist Awards yesterday, said that the decision to defer was the right thing to do and was made with his approval.

According to RTÉ, the Taoiseach went on to say that the event had become unnecessarily controversial but he hoped the commemoration could go forward in the future 'in a more appropriate way'.

Mr Varadkar said he is a firm believer in a united Ireland and believes it could happen in his lifetime, but that the backlash surrounding the planned commemoration was a setback for unity.

A united Ireland must be a place where our shared history is recognised, Mr Varadkar said, along with the fact that there are a million people on the island of Ireland from British unionist backgrounds.

However, he said lessons could be learned from the failure and backlash of the planned commemorations, and admitted that things could have been handled differently-- although he also said some were misrepresenting what had actually been planned for the event.

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald appeared to respond to Mr Varadkar's comments in a short statement yesterday evening, where she said:

"You don't build a United Ireland by denigrating the memory of those who fought for Irish freedom and independence, and lionising those who brutally suppressed that desire and who upheld British rule".

Details of what a future, amended commemoration could look like have not yet been revealed.