Unionists need to take their “heads out of the sand” and accept that a soon-to-be Catholic majority in the North of Ireland will pave the way for a reunification of the island, a prominent Irish priest has said.
Fermanagh priest and well-known civil rights activist, Fr Joe McVeigh, said that in accordance with recent census figures, Catholics will outnumber Protestants in the North by 2021, which should compel unionists to “face up to the changing realities” of the region.
His comments come after the former DUP leader, Peter Robinson, suggested last week that preparations should be made for the possibility of a united Ireland.
Speaking at the MacGill Summer in Co. Donegal on July 27, Mr Robinson said that although he doesn’t expect the North would want to leave the UK, he would accept the result of a border poll if it led to a reunification between the North and South.
“I don’t expect my own house to burn down but I still insure it because it could happen,” he said.
In response, Fr McVeigh commended the former politician’s remarks and said that he welcomes any input from unionists into the discussion about the future of Ireland, especially following the impact that Brexit will have on the country.
“It’s very important that unionists face up to the changing realities here in the North and I’m glad that someone of his standing has done this. And of course, some unionists will not like to hear this as they’ve expressed already, but it has begun. It’s not going to stop. It’s not going to end. It must continue,” Fr McVeigh told The Irish Catholic.
He added that there may be some initial “tension” between Catholics and Protestants following a reunification, but that in the long-term, it could pave the way for “normal political relationships”.
“Even if the British were taken out of the equation, there could be normal relationships. They would be on an equal basis – the Protestant idea of supremacy would be gone. That’s what’s holding normal relationships back.”