Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar has told party members he believes that the unification of Ireland can happen in his lifetime.

In an online address, he said: "I believe in the unification of our island and I believe it can happen in my lifetime."

The Tánaiste suggested that his party should "establish a branch in Northern Ireland ... not with a view to contesting elections, but with a view to recruiting members and building networks" with like-minded people.

On difficulties implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol, he advised that there should be "no unilateral action either by London or Brussels".

He said Dublin "fully appreciate the practical difficulties the protocol has caused for some in Northern Ireland" and the problems for Unionists in particular.

The Fine Gael leader said Dublin remained committed to "working through the European Union to find pragmatic solutions within the parameters of the Withdrawal Agreement. It can be done."

Mr Varadkar said the unification of the people of our island, as well as territory of Ireland "is a legitimate political aspiration".

However, he claimed Sinn Féin's vision of uniting Ireland was "not an inclusive one".

He branded it as "a cold form of republicanism, socialist, narrow nationalism, protectionist, anti-British, euro-critical, ourselves alone, 50% plus one and nobody else is needed".

The Tánaiste said there was an obligation on Fine Gael to set out its vision.

He said: "We have to be willing to consider all that we'd be willing to change, new titles, shared symbols, how devolution in the North would fit into the new arrangements, a new Senate to strengthen the representation of minorities, the role and status of our languages, a new and closer relationship with the United Kingdom."

He added: "We also need to map out how we can take the best of both jurisdictions and apply them across Ireland as a whole, perhaps our welfare and pensions system, their NHS to give just two examples. And also what might remain different, because unification is not assimilation, for example, perhaps education or maintaining two legal systems."

Concluding, Mr Varadkar said: "Until these questions are answered, until we have a clear proposition to put to the people on both parts of our island, then a border poll is premature."