Citizens' assembly on Ireland's future 'not ruled out'

Leo Varadkar
Image caption Leo Varadkar told the Dáil times were "sensitive"

Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said he will consider and "not rule out" a citizens' assembly on the constitutional future of Ireland.

The government is increasingly using randomly-chosen forums to test opinion on possible constitutional changes.

Speaking in the Dáil (Irish Parliament), Mr Varadkar said now was not the time for such a development.

He highlighted sensitivities with Brexit and a concern over unionist participation.

"It is a sensitive time right now," he said.

"We are only two weeks or so from Westminster elections which are happening in Northern Ireland as well as Great Britain.

"The Northern Ireland Assembly and executive are not functioning and the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement is in the balance.

"We might find ourselves in two or three months time in a very different place.

"We might find ourselves in a more stable situation and in a better political environment to advance these kind of ideas."

'Pan-nationalist assembly'

The issue of future constitutional arrangements on the island was raised by Labour and Sinn Féin, after an open letter was sent to the taoiseach (Irish PM) by more than 1,000 leading figures from across the island and beyond.

In the Dáil, Mr Varadkar asked whether unionists and British citizens would participate in such an assembly.

He said that if they did not it would be a "pan-nationalist assembly then rather than an assembly of all the citizens of Ireland".

"And that is something that would have a very different nature to something that many of us would like to see," he added.

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