Former President Mary McAleese has said Brexit has provided an unexpected opportunity to reframe the debate on Irish unity.
In a wide-ranging contribution on Brexit and the political paralysis that has taken hold in Westminster, Ms McAleese compared the current situation to a type of political flesh-eating disease. But there is an opportunity for the unity debate to move to a healthier place, according to the respected former President.
She paid tribute to former Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s securing of an agreement among European leaders that dictates that post-Brexit, should partition end, Northern Ireland will be able to be seamlessly re-enveloped into the EU.
“Now what you are offering people is not – as some people fear – absorption into the Republic where people will be preening themselves because now past injustices have been righted, but rather what you will be offering people is the prospect of this wonderful new democracy within the EU, fresh and different and reconciling of all identities, something really qualitatively different,” she said.
“It’s what many of us have always wanted to construct but actually Brexit has given us a tool that we never really expected to have – and we should use that very wisely.”
She also sounded a warning that people must learn from the “sobering” lesson Brexit has taught about the need to prepare the ground for radical Constitutional reform. In a pithy assessment of the current state of play, Ms McAleese said the title of her keynote address to the DCU’s Brexit Institute was ‘Haven’t a clue’.