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EU Referendum: Theresa Villiers dismisses Sinn Fein demands to hold a border poll

By Noel McAdam

Published 25/06/2016

Secretary of State Theresa Villiers
Secretary of State Theresa Villiers

Sinn Fein's demands for a border poll on Irish unity in the wake of the EU referendum have been firmly rejected by the Secretary of State.

Theresa Villiers, who campaigned for a Brexit ahead of the vote, said the criteria for a such a move had not been met.

But Sinn Fein said it intended to "intensify" its demands for a unity referendum.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness argued: "The British Government has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union.

"I think that there is now a democratic imperative for a border poll. The fact that we have seen a situation where 56% of the people of the North, who are unionists and nationalists and republicans, voted together to stay in Europe further strengthens the case for a border poll."

Former SF national chairman Declan Kearney added: "We have a situation where the North is going to be dragged out on the tails of a vote in England.

"That is a huge democratic deficit for our society, building on the existing democratic deficit of partition."

But Mrs Villiers insisted: "The Good Friday Agreement is very clear that the circumstances where the Secretary of State is required to have a border poll is where there is reason to believe there would be a majority support for a united Ireland.

"There is nothing to indicate that in any of the opinion surveys that have taken place.

"Again and again, the polls demonstrate that a significant majority of people in Northern Ireland are content with the political settlement established under the Belfast Agreement, and with Northern Ireland's place within the United Kingdom."

DUP First Minister Arlene Foster said Sinn Fein's demands were "as predictable as the flowers in May" and that she was "absolutely certain" that Northern Ireland's constitutional position had not been undermined.

UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he was disappointed but not surprised that Mr McGuinness's first reaction had been to "introduce further uncertainty" by calling for a unity referendum.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, meanwhile, indicated that he was planning to open discussions with the Dublin administration "on how we can defend the interests of the people of Ireland, North and South".

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