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Time to open the debate on a united Ireland, urges Stormont politician Trevor Lunn


Stormont by night. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Stormont by night. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

Stormont by night. Photo: Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye

A sitting politician in Stormont outside nationalist groupings has opened the door to a discussion on a united Ireland.

Independent Assembly member Trevor Lunn has called on the Irish Government to stop tiptoeing around unionism, take the initiative and lay out Ireland’s stall on the issue of unity.

Ireland shouldn’t wait until a Border poll is called when emotions may run high, according to Mr Lunn (74), formerly chair of the Alliance Party and an MLA with the party for 13 years.

Mr Lunn, who describes himself as “a slightly unionist- leaning politician”, believes there is a growing body of people in the North prepared to discuss new possibilities. They need information now to help them reach a considered decision on where their best interests lie, he urges.

“There is a group of undecided citizens, and I regard myself as one of them. We’re at the point where these things need to be talked about in a more measured, unconfrontational way,” said the MLA for Lagan Valley.

“I’d say to the southern government, don’t wait for a referendum to put some of these things on the table. They shouldn’t wait until we get into the heat of a referendum campaign before they do it.

“Lay it out in some sort of document. Let people absorb it, give them time for reflection and a proper consideration of the issues. Doing it in advance would be a very useful exercise in the interests of certainty and to give a measure of reassurance about the matters that concern people.”

He had a word of advice for the Micheál Martin-led administration: “Don’t be afraid of offending unionism. Unionism is easily offended. They don’t speak for everybody up here.”

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Mr Lunn said he assumed a unity referendum would be called within the next five years. “Brexit has changed people’s attitudes. People up here are now prepared to look south as well as east to establish where their best interests might lie,” he said. “The Republic could start the discussion and, equally, unionism can make the case for continuing with what they hold dear.

“Between Brexit and the attitude of the British government and the way it’s treated Northern Ireland in the last year, things are changing. People who I know are unionist are prepared to talk about the constitutional question.

“If you accept that change is coming, then you may as well be in on the conversation. If something is going to happen and you have the option to talk about it in advance or not, the choice is fairly obvious.

“Let’s talk about it. That’s all I say. I’m not advocating for a united Ireland – I’m saying it’s a process we need to get into.”

The DUP warned against Dublin “interference” when the Taoiseach launched his Shared Island Unit recently, while the UUP said it had no intention of engaging with it.

Mr Lunn noted the North has 60pc turnout at most elections, meaning 40pc of the population holds views which aren’t necessarily reflected in the Assembly’s composition.

“A lot of people are disenchanted with Stormont, and don’t vote,” he said. “But they have a view on this question. They remain to be convinced one way or the other.”

Mr Lunn parted from the Alliance Party earlier this year over “irreconcilable differences” and sits in ­Stormont as an independent MLA.

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