GERRY Adams warned a Cork audience that a 'Tory-led' Brexit will be equally as bad for Munster as for the border counties and said the time is right for the Government to push for a referendum on a united Ireland.
The longstanding Sinn Féin president was in The Commons Inn last night for his final public appearance before stepping aside as leader and hundreds gathered to hear him speak.
Sitting down with the Evening Echo before his appearance, Mr Adams said that Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney were finally starting to take a firm position on Brexit, something that had been missing previously.
"I think they are doing better than they were, they were sleepwalking into Brexit, as were Enda Kenny and Micheál Martin when this was first mooted. We were the ones that were saying very clearly that if the British took the north out of the EU, against the wishes of the people, there could be no other outcome except a hard economic border. Even now the British are yet to put forward any practical propositions."
He said Sinn Féin favoured the North being kept in the European Union, through some special designation, despite 'righteous reservations about the direction of the EU'.
"I raised this with the Taoiseach today. I said, 'you have a veto, use it'. He needs to be prepared to use it to prevent talks moving to the next stage, I think he will have to."
Mr Adams also said the time was right for a push for a united Ireland.
"The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) has to be upheld, peace in the North has to be nurtured, the institutions need to be put back in place. A united Ireland is laid out for in the GFA, there is a referendum required to bring it about and the Government should be arguing for that referendum."
The Sinn Féin leader repeated the call for a referendum during his speech, which was warmly received by the crowd. There were three standing ovations during his appearance, where he paid tribute to the republican tradition in the area. He said the late Martin McGuinness had loved west Cork and said: "Historically Cork has been to the fore in the struggle for freedom and social justice on this island.
"The Black and Tans got their answer here in the Rebel city and county of Cork. Tom Barry and his flying column typified Cork's fighting spirit. We should never glorify war but it is important to remember that ordinary Cork people did extraordinary things in the national interest, for the freedom of our country."
Mr Adams also told the Evening Echo his party would not be interested in coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil after the next election. He described them as 'opposite sides of the same coin' and said 'there are policy issues between us that are totally and absolutely incompatible'.
He said the recent controversy around Frances Fitzgerald had been the first test of the Taoiseach's leadership and believed he had 'failed miserably'. Of Fianna Fáil, he said: "Their leadership cannot be trusted. They bust the country."