Spanish king condemns Catalan separatists in national address

King Felipe the sixth was speaking after hundreds of thousands of people protested in Barcelona

Spanish king condemns Catalan separatists in national address

Spain's King Felipe VI delivers a speech from the Zarzuela Palace in Madrid, 03-10-2017.

The King of Spain has voiced his commitment to the unity of his country calling the Catalan independence referendum "illegal" and "undemocratic."

King Felipe the sixth was addressing the nation following a day of protests in Barcelona.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Catalan regional capital, closing metro stations, schools and cafes and blocking roads.

A general strike was also called in the region to protest police brutality in response to the weekend’s referendum.

Illegal and undemocratic

The King condemned the referendum this evening accusing Catalonian politicians of behaving irresponsibly and risking the entire country's economic stability.

He went on to back the Spanish government, insisting the independence referendum was illegal and undemocratic, warning that the region needs to ensure constitutional order and the rule of law.

"Today Catalan society is fractured and in conflict," he said – referring to the crisis as a "very serious moment for our democratic life."

He also accused Catalan politicians of shattering democratic principles and of dividing society:

“They have violated the democratic principles of the rule of law and they have undermined the harmony of Catalan society,” he said.

Police brutality

The violent response of Spanish authorities to the referendum - broadcast worldwide with images of police using rubber bullets and batons on voters - has prompted discomfort internationally and fury in Catalonia.

Some 900 people were injured as police attempted to prevent people from casting their ballots.

Catalonia's government said that of the 2.2 million voters who were able to vote - two million voted for independence.

Declaration of independence

Catalan leaders are mulling a possible declaration of independence following the poll, but Spain's government has said it will respond with "all necessary measures" against defiance.

Carles Puigdemont, Catalonia's elected leader, has asked for EU mediation in negotiations and said Catalonia has "won the right to an independent state."

The King is now holding talks with national opposition leaders.

In his speech he said it was the "responsibility of legitimate state powers to ensure constitutional order."

"They have placed themselves totally outside the law and democracy," he said of the Catalan leadership.

Human rights

Meanwhile the United Nations has called for human rights experts to be allowed to visit the region.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said: "I am very disturbed by the violence in Catalonia on Sunday.

"With hundreds of people reported injured, I urge the Spanish authorities to ensure thorough, independent and impartial investigations into all acts of violence.

"Police responses must at all times be proportionate and necessary.

On Monday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said Ireland will not recognise the result.

Additional reporting from IRN ...