Senior Government member claims Catalan independence 'inevitable'

John Halligan says the “way forward” for the region is a fresh set of elections

Senior Government member claims Catalan independence 'inevitable'

File photo, Minister of State, John Halligan. Image: RollingNews

A senior member of the Irish Government has said he believes in Catalan independence – but warned any transition must be peaceful.

The region's sacked President is due to make a public appearance in Belgium today after being charged with rebellion, sedition and misuse of public funds.

Carles Puigdemont has travelled to Brussels alongside five former members of his Cabinet.

The Taoiseach has already warned that Ireland will not recognise the result of the October 1st Catalonian referendum which voted in favour of separating from Spain.

The Spanish government declared the election illegal and unconstitutional.

On Newstalk Breakfast however, Junior Minister John Halligan said he believes there is “an inevitability” about Catalonia achieving independence – adding that the “way forward” for the region is a fresh set of elections:

“I personally believe in Catalonian independence,” he said. “I always have and I always will.”

“I believe they have their own identity, they have their own culture and they have their own heritage and it goes way back hundreds and hundreds of years.

“What I would say is this – I think that whatever happens, everything has to be done peacefully.”

Independence referendum

Of the 2.2 million voters who were able to cast ballots in the banned referendum, two million voted for independence – however there are 5.4 million people eligible to vote in the region.

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.

Noting that he was speaking as a TD rather than as a Government minister, Mr Halligan said he believed the Spanish response was wrong adding that the region’s right to independence should be recognised.

“Me asking the Irish Government to recognise Catalonia is not going to make a blind bit of difference because they will be obliged to stand by what the European Union are doing I believe,” he said.

“I would call on the Government to advocate for peaceful elections to be held for the whole of Catalonia.

“If it transpires that the vast majority of people in Catalonia seek independence, then it is a different story and I would urge the Spanish authorities and the European Union to recognise that.”

Independence declaration

Mr Puigdemont and other Catalan leaders reportedly travelled to Brussels yesterday, the first working day after the region’s parliament declared independence.

Within hours of the declaration the Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy dissolved the parliament and called a round of new regional elections on December 21st.

Should the Catalan leaders face the charges brought forward by the Spanish prosecutor, they could face prison sentences of between six and 30 years.