Thursday 24 August 2017

Sinn Féin calls for border poll are dismissed as a 'distraction'

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (R) and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams (L) give their reaction to the EU Referendum vote at a press conference outside Stormont Castle in Belfast. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness (R) and Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams (L) give their reaction to the EU Referendum vote at a press conference outside Stormont Castle in Belfast. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Sinn Féin's call for a border poll on Irish unity in the wake of the Brexit result has been dismissed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Fianna Fáil's Micheál Martin.

Mr Kenny said there is "no evidence" that the conditions exist for such a poll and said there are "more serious issues" to deal first.

Meanwhile, Mr Martin branded Gerry Adams's demand for a vote as a "distraction".

Sinn Féin's call came as Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon indicated a second independence referendum is on the cards there. Scotland - like Northern Ireland - voted to remain in Europe and Ms Sturgeon said it's a "democratic outrage" that her country would have to leave the EU.

Mr Adams made his remarks outside Stormont Castle, flanked by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness.

He warned of the possible re-introduction of border controls and said the UK leaving the EU will have a "likely detrimental impact on the Good Friday Agreement".

Mr Adams said the people in the North voted to remain in the EU and argued the British government now has no mandate to represent them in Europe.

"There is now a democratic imperative for a border poll. The Irish government should support this," he said.

Mr McGuinness believes such a vote can be "conducted in a civilised atmosphere" citing the 2014 Scottish independence referendum.

In Dublin, the party's deputy leader, Mary Lou McDonald, called the referendum result "a game changer" and said the case for a vote on Irish unity is "unanswerable".

The Taoiseach said under the Good Friday Agreement, a border poll can take place if the British Northern Secretary believes a majority wants to join the Republic.

"There is no such evidence," Mr Kenny said, adding: "There are much more serious issue to deal with in the immediate term and that's where our focus is."

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers - who had campaigned for 'Leave' - ruled out holding a reunification poll.

She said no opinion surveys indicate that a majority in the North support a united Ireland.

"Again and again, they demonstrate that a significant majority of people in Northern Ireland are content with the political settlement established under the Belfast Agreement and Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom," she said, adding that "with common sense", the two jurisdictions can ensure an open border is maintained.

Mr Martin said Fianna Fáil's "fundamental view" is that Irish unity is the best way forward.

He said: "The Sinn Féin call is a distraction given that we have such instability and uncertainty." He said the focus should be on ensuring "we get the best deal possible that protects Ireland's vital economic interests" in the EU Brexit negotiations.

Irish Independent

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