Taoiseach Micheál Martin has described Sinn Féin’s calls for a border poll on a united Ireland as divisive and said he would favour a different approach.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said a referendum on Irish unity is “imperative” to growing the Irish economy.
Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday she said: “A united Ireland is the best idea for the future of our country.
“It is essential to the prosperity of all our people because growing our economy requires an all-Ireland approach.
“Protecting our health service requires an all-Ireland approach.”
Mr Martin said an all-island unit has been set up in the Department of the Taoiseach but said Sinn Féin’s insistence on a border poll is divisive.
He said: “I don’t believe precipitating or organising a referendum like that is the way to go.
“That was the Sinn Féin position since Brexit happened and you have come back a bit from it.
“I think the over focus on the border poll was too divisive, too partisan and would only run counter to what you wanted to achieve.
“I would favour a different approach. I would favour a stronger north-south relationship and the development of that.”
He said: “The agenda for the future of this island is how we engineer and develop an accommodation where we can all live in peace and harmony on the island and to not try to dictate to one tradition about what the solution is going to be which seems to be the agenda you’re pursuing.
“The Good Friday Agreement is the defining document because it is based on three sets of relationships, the British-Irish relationship, the north-south relationship and the two traditions within Northern Ireland itself.”
Mr Martin said the focus of the all-island unit is to see how the Government can “develop a shared future”.
“Irrespective of what may emerge in the future, it is my view that these three sets of relationships will have to underpin any future arrangements.”