WATCH | Varadkar inflames tensions by admitting Ireland unification is his “mission”

Former Irish Taioseach Leo Varadkar has caused outrage among Unionists in Northern Ireland by admitting the unification of Ireland is the “mission” of his party.

At the Fine Gael party conference on Tuesday, current deputy prime minister Varadkar said his party “should be proud to say that unification is something we aspire to.”

“I believe in the unification of our island, and I believe it can happen in my lifetime,” Varadkar told party delegates.

“It means the unification of the people of our island, as well as the territory of Ireland and is a legitimate political aspiration.

“The views of Unionists must be acknowledged, understood and respected but no one group can have a veto on Ireland’s future.

“We know the crude vision espoused by Sinn Fein, it’s not an inclusive one – a cold form of republicanism, socialist, narrow nationalism, protectionist, anti-British, euro-critical, ourselves alone, 50 per cent plus one and nobody else is needed. That is not a 21st-century vision,” Varadkar added.

“Our vision should be different. It should be one that has the best chance of carrying the greatest number of people with us, North and South.”

Gavin Robinson, the DUP MP for East Belfast labelled Varadkar’s comments “deeply unhelpful and destabilising at such a grave time of political instability in Northern Ireland” during questions to the Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis on Wednesday.

Mr Lewis agreed the comments were “unhelpful and ill-advised” and called on Irish politicians to “dial down any rhetoric”, suggesting that recent polls showing Varadkar’s party under pressure from Sinn Fein may have been a contributing factor to the inflammatory remarks.

Tensions have continued to rise on the island of Ireland following the attempted implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol which Unionists argue have annexed the province from Great Britain.

Calls to disapply the Protocol have so far fallen on deaf ears in Westminster, although Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator Lord Frost did admit to MPs on Wednesday during a select committee hearing that there was a “very visible weakening of consent” on the island for the Protocol and that “all options remain on the table” during negotiations with Brussels over a future arrangement.