NEVER in my lifetime has a Taoiseach been on Teilfís Éireann talking about the aspiration to Irish unification and put the case for its desirability. On his way out the door, Leo Varadkar managed to pull off the unlikely and the exceptional – he became the modern Irish patriot we needed in a week when small-minded begrudgers tried to reduce the national debate to the last farthing and tell us our boundaries for self-determination.

In his last word to the Irish people as Taoiseach he took on the “eminent” economists who tell us Irish unity is not possible because those abandoned after partition are not rich enough, or good enough, for their Free State economic miracle, and repairing the rupture to our country might have fiscal implications. Leo Varadkar had that put to him –  and he blew up this Blue Shirt Partitionism. “Unification should never be about money," he said. "If you believe in the unification of your country, 3 or 4% of GDP is a small price to pay.”

And just like that, the arguments of the previous week where Irish economists were pitched against each other with models and assumptions in a circular debate were put to bed. And the national interest, and our future as a united Irish nation, became visible again. That it was a Fine Gael leader is what made it so extraordinary and told us even more than the words used. Irish unification is the debate of the moment and we need to grasp it with energy, aspiration and hope.

For this is a moment about who we are and who we want to be. There are so many who wish to retain partition, who will try to tell us what we cannot strive towards. They will tell us we are not rich enough, not reconciled enough, not educated enough. They will pretend that this is like the flu and it is just how we are, rather than engage with the patently obvious that if all of those things are true it is because of partition. Because Britain chooses to keep us, their last colony, dependent on their benefits, their whim and their cruelty. But we are not defined by that.

Ireland united will reunite its people, its saints and scholars. Its new Heaneys and Longleys will join with its new Bolands and Kavanaghs and write a new poem for a new complexion of Ireland. Our First Derivatives will join with our Smurfit Kappas and repair a broken partitioned economy. Our schools will build a new model based on equality and build united platforms of advantage and potential.

No-one has the right to consign our population to continued poverty, under-achievement and disadvantage. Britain is responsible for this perpetuated outrage in six of our counties, but it is in the hands of the Irish people to change that. Simon Harris and his coalition have the opportunity to grasp this moment this week and formalise the planning. Turning the aspirational into the practical is our great ability. Just as the revolutionaries turned a seemingly unpopular rebellion in 1916 into a national government in 1918, so too can we see this moment turn from talk about a border poll, to planning for a border poll, to winning it, to building our new nation with self-determination, hope and belief in a united, modern, European Ireland.