'Regardless of Brexit, there will be a unity referendum'- Mary Lou McDonald calls for a vote on Irish unity

Mary Lou McDonald. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

Mícheál Ó Scannáil

Mary Lou McDonald has called for a poll on Irish unity after the UK withdrew their only guarantee of no hard border in a parliamentary vote on Tuesday.

Speaking at a Sinn Féin gathering on Saturday in Dublin, to discuss a campaign for Irish unity, the party leader implored the government to consider a vote on a united Ireland.

“The government cannot continue to shout this down,” she said.

“There is an increasing demand from across society for a poll on Irish unity. Poll after poll shows this to be true. To those who say ‘now is not the time’ – we say you are wrong. History is unfolding, the next chapter is being written. Now is the time.

“The time has come for a unity forum to be convened and for planning to commence. Sinn Féin is ready and up for this challenge.”

The Sinn Féin leader reminded her followers that Northern Ireland voted by 55.8pc to 44.2pc to remain as part of the EU and that Brexit is being imposed on those who did not want to leave.

“The people of Ireland did not agree to Brexit and the imposition of a hard border in our country. Citizens in the north voted to remain in the EU.

“That vote has been ignored by the British government who have no concern about the impact their Brexit will have on the people here.

“The Good Friday Agreement provides a route to remove the border once and for all. The democratic and right thing to do is to put this proposition to the people and give them their say.

The comments come from the TD for Dublin Central after a UK parliament vote on Tuesday saw them, by a margin of 317 to 301, to back the new "Brady amendment".

The new amendment sees them opt to ditch their controversial backstop plan for unspecified "alternative arrangements". The backstop was criticised by the Irish government but was seen as necessary as the only safety net from a hard border in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

The backstop had been planned since the UK government invoked article 50 on March 29, 2017 but the UK parliament decided to replace it with unspecified and unplanned "alternative arrangements" with only two months left before they are supposed to leave the EU.

Irrespective of Brexit however, Mrs McDonald said that it is time for a movement towards a 32-county Ireland.

“Regardless of Brexit, there will be a unity referendum. In our time we now have an opportunity denied to generations – a peaceful and democratic route to Irish unity; to build a new and united Ireland.”