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Irish do not need British permission to raise reunification, says Harris

Fine Gael's Simon Harris has rebuffed criticism from the British government for his party leader's comments about a united Ireland, saying Irish ministers did not "need permission" to talk about the issue.

After party leader Leo Varadkar declared at the Fine Gael ardfheis that it was their mission to achieve a united Ireland, which he could see in his lifetime, UK northern secretary Brandon Lewis described his remarks as "unhelpful and ill-advised" during current tensions in the North.

Mr Lewis said the British government "would be concerned about any deviation from the principle of consent as enshrined in the Belfast Good Friday Agreement" and urged everyone to "dial down the rhetoric, particularly at this time of year".

The British government minister also linked the timing of Mr Varadkar's comments to Sinn Féin gains and a Fine Gael drop among voters, reflected in the latest Irish Times/Ipsos MRBI opinion poll.

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