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Saturday 16 December 2017

Brexit should lead to United Ireland vote, insists Sinn Féin's Martin McGuinness

Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness (L) and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams Credit: Brian Lawless (PA Wire)
Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland Martin McGuinness (L) and Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams Credit: Brian Lawless (PA Wire)

David Kearns

There should be a vote on Irish reunification if Britain chooses to leave the European Union, says Martin McGuinness.

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister said a ‘Brexit’ would be against the wishes of the Irish people living in Northern Ireland and, as such, it was only fair that a border poll be held to “end partition and retain [Ireland’s] role in the EU”.

“Ireland’s place, north and south, is in Europe and leading change in Europe. If Britain votes to leave the European Union then that could have huge implications for the entire island of Ireland and, given all the predictions, would run counter to the democratic wishes of the Irish people.

“Such a negative development would represent a political and economic game-changer.”

Speaking earlier today, Mr McGuinness added: “If there is a vote in Britain to leave the EU, there is a democratic imperative to provide Irish citizens with the right to vote in a border poll to end partition and retain a role in the EU.”

A referendum on whether the UK should stay in the EU will be held on 23 June, and Mr McGuinness  said that if the Britain votes to leave then Sinn Féin would press for Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers to call a border poll.

Ms Villiers has the power, under the terms of Good Friday Agreement, to call a poll on whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK or unite with the Republic of Ireland.

“I have proposed to Theresa Villiers that, given the enormous significance of these issues, the British government now give a firm commitment to an immediate border poll in the event Britain votes to leave the European Union.”

The Sinn Féin Minister added that a border poll would be a "legitimate test of political opinion that would threaten no-one".

Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionists and the nationalist SDLP are campaigning to stay in the EU, while the Democratic Unionists are the only major party in Northern Ireland to campaign for a Brexit.

Ms Villiers, who is a life-long member of the Conservative party, has expressed her support for the UK to leave the EU, saying “while there are risks” on both sides of the debate, the "safer option" was to leave.

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