Hopes for Irish unity are "noble and legitimate", said Irish Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar, but he called for compromise in the debate on the island's constitutional future.
Addressing a rally over the weekend of thousands in favour of the unification of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland — part of the UK — Varadkar said he shared the aspirations of the crowd but warned against imposing the will of the majority on a pro-UK minority.
“There are opposing dreams on this island, which cannot be ignored, cannot be wished away, cannot be silenced, nor should they be. Those approaches failed in the past and they will fail in the future," he said.
Varadkar, who will become prime minister in December as part of the coalition government's rotation deal, said hopes for a united Ireland came with a "responsibility for all of us to ensure that our dreams do not become someone else's nightmare".
"For these reasons, I believe our aim should be to secure as large a majority as possible in both jurisdictions in any future ballot," he added, referring to a possible referendum on Irish unity.
Varadkar shied away from calling for a border poll immediately, placing more emphasis on forming links across the sectarian divide in the north.
Some however were keener for an immediate border poll. They included the Leader of the Opposition and President of the avowedly republican Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald.
“But in the end, there is no them. Only us, us who call Ireland home,” she said. “And Ireland's future will be determined by choices made today, by decisions of this generation. So the question before us is clear, and it is this: Do we remain hemmed in by the narrow boundaries of the past?"
Republicans who long for a single country on the island of Ireland have the wind in their sails. The pro-unity Sinn Féin are now the largest party in Northern Ireland, a fact painfully displayed for unionists when the new King Charles greeted republican representatives before unionist ones, when he visited Belfast after the Queen’s death.
Recent census data also showed that Northern Ireland had more people identifying as Catholic, who generally are republicans, than Protestants, who wish to remain a part of the UK.
But many in Northern Ireland say they will never accept being a part of the Irish Republic. In the wake of the Queen’s death many unionists renewed their loyalty, both to the new King and the British state.
Ireland has been divided for 100 years, with lines that are not easy to bridge. With a changing demography it will be increasingly important to appeal across differing communities to win the argument on Northern Ireland’s constitutional future.