Friday 19 July 2019

Government needs to prepare for United Ireland referendum in case of Brexit crash-out – Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: PA
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: PA

Gabija Gataveckaite

The Government needs to prepare for a referendum on United Ireland in case the UK crashes out of the EU, according to Mary Lou McDonald.

Speaking on Today with Sean O’Rourke on RTÉ’s Radio One this morning, the Sinn Féin leader stated that preparation needs to begin now.

"The government needs to be preparing for the ultimate scenario, where if there is any possibility of an economic border on the island of Ireland, we need to be prepared to take the steps for a referendum in terms of constitutional change," she said.

"The reason we have advanced that position is because we don’t want to see a disorderly Brexit.

"Neither do we want us to stumble in a disorderly fashion onto the question and the terrain of constitutional change.

"Public opinion has been clear that they will consider and will want to see the issue of the border addressed."

The British government has set a date of October 31 to leave the European Union.

However, when questioned, Ms McDonald was not able to give a specific timescale of when a referendum on Irish unity may take place.

"The time is now for the government of the day and for the Irish state to create that space that context that framework for an all-island, inclusive conversation on Ireland post-Brexit, on the issue of the border," she continued.

"My timescale is now, I believe the preparations need to happen now.

"I believe there has to be a thoughtful, prepared conversation in advance of that, I cannot offer you a precise date."

Ms McDonald explained that in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement, to create Irish unity, referenda will have to take place both north and south of the border.

"I'm talking about a referendum as and when we are prepared to have one and this could happen very very quickly," she said.

"[The referendum] could happen in a matter of weeks, in some cases days, in most cases in a time-frame of months," she added.

Ms McDonald insisted that both the republic and the north of Ireland must stay in the EU.

"All of the island has to stay within the European Union, we cannot have borders of the past," she said.

"The preparations need to start now."

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