Saturday 24 March 2018

Minister says border poll 'issue for communities of Northern Ireland'

Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Frank McGrath
Paschal Donohoe. Photo: Frank McGrath
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

There has been a clear softening in the Government’s stance on the prospect of a border poll being staged.

Some 24 hours after Enda Kenny placed the issue firmly on the political agenda, Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe said the Taoiseach was merely laying out the mechanisms in the Good Friday Agreement.

“The Good Friday Agreement lays out the procedures by which a poll can be triggered in Northern Ireland. That's a matter for the communities of Northern Ireland and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland," he said.

Speaking to reporters at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Mr Donohoe was asked about whether he personally favours the staging of a referendum on Irish Unity.

On a number of occasions, the Dublin Central TD said this was a matter for the North.

“What the Taoiseach was re-emphasising were the clear mechanisms that were enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement, it is an internationally recognised treaty that was put together with huge commitment from all communities in Northern Ireland and the British and Irish government,” Mr Donohoe said.

“It is recognised in the Good Friday Agreement that if the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland recognises or believes that there is desire amongst the people of Northern Ireland to change their legal status then the mechanism is in place to trigger a poll and referendum within Northern Ireland and what the Taoiseach was saying last night was the need for the GFA to be recognised within any future agreement between the EU and the UK.”

The clear softening in the Government’s stance on the matter came just hours after a leading Unionist politician described Mr Kenny’s remarks as “foolish” and “mischievous”.

DUP MP Ian Paisley Jnr said the public in Northern Ireland from both nationalist and unionist counities have "no interest whatsoever" in a united Ireland.

Speaking on the 'News at One' on RTÉ radio, Mr Paisley said such calls for a referendum are motivated solely by causing "diversion".

He singled out Mr Kenny and Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adam, saying both leaderships are in crisis.

"I think we can dismiss it gently. We can recognise the fact there isn 't going to be a border poll, it's been dismissed by Her Majesty's government so we just have to move on from here and hope the Republic will continue to be a good neighbour," Mr Paisley said.

Meanwhile, Mr Donohoe described Mr Kenny as an “experienced Taoiseach” ,adding that he has his full support.

“It is up to the Taoiseach, as I have said on a number of occasions, for him to determine at what point he no longer wants to lead Fine Gael.”

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