Fianna Fáil to publish white paper on Irish reunification

The 12-point plan will examine the practicalities of what might happen following any potential referendum on Irish unity

Updated 13:30

Fianna Fáil is to publish a roadmap aimed at strengthening links between the Republic and Northern Ireland - which could help prepare the way for a referendum on the reunification of the island.

The party’s leader, Micheál Martin believes reunification could become a reality within his lifetime – but warned that serious groundwork would have to be undertaken to prepare the way.

A Fianna Fáil white paper examining ways to strengthen economic, political and educational links on both sides of the border is to be published within months.

The 12-point plan will aim to develop cross-Border ties as the prospect of Brexit looms - and examine what might happen following any reunification referendum.

Role reversal

In an interview with the Irish Times, Mr Martin said a united Ireland could operate along the lines of the current set up, but with the roles of Dublin and London reversed.

Speaking to The Pat Kenny Show this morning, he said there is no point in discussing the possibility of a referendum on the issue without examining how it might work.

“Northern Ireland for too long was governed by what I would term an ugly majoritarianism which was inherently sectarian,” he said.

“We don’t want to replace that with something else so in my view this has to be evolutionary [...] the real issue is, let’s make sure that this is developing peace, harmony, consensus.”

The Fianna Fáil paper will reportedly examine the possibility of maintaining the Stormont Assembly following a potential referendum and include the possibility of a deal between the British and Irish governments that would see London continuing to pay the block grant to Northern Ireland on a declining basis over a number of years.

The plan would see moves towards a common educational curriculum and continued access to European research programmes for third-level institutions across Ireland after Brexit.

It would also see the creation of a common enterprise agency to attract foreign direct investment to the island as a whole - leading to a harmonised corporate tax regime.

“Those are very practical focused questions that, in my view, before anyone ever talks about unity need to be discussed, debated and plans formulated in relation to that," said Mr Martin. "because the one great lesson of Brexit is, please don’t propose a referendum if you haven’t a blind bit of an idea as to what happens in the days after.”

Broad support

Responding to the reports this morning, the Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar said a united Ireland may be possible within his lifetime – but warned that it will need support from all communities around the island.

“What I wouldn’t like to see is the tyranny of the majority,” he said. “We had for too long in Northern Ireland a Unionist majority dominating Nationalists and Irish Catholics.”

“We need to make sure that whatever we do doesn’t just put the shoe on the other foot and that any change in the constitutional status in Northern Ireland has broad support from both communities.”