A leading member of the dissident republican movement in Northern Ireland admitted yesterday that violence would “probably be morally wrong” if an all-Ireland vote resulted in the border being retained.
Gary Donnelly, who stood as an Independent Republican in Derry in yesterday's local government elections, made the comment outside the Londonderry Model Public Elementary School polling station, just minutes after he'd refused to shake hands with Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness.
Mr Donnelly, a member of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement, which is regarded as being the political wing of the Real IRA, said the crucial issue for republicans was the question of national sovereignty.
“The people of Ireland have not had a chance to vote on an all-Ireland basis on the question of Irish unity and national sovereignty,” he said.
Asked if he would accept the outcome of such a referendum, Mr Donnelly said it would be undemocratic not to do so.
“I believe if you give the people of Ireland the democratic vote to determine their own future, that is democracy.
“Whatever way the people of Ireland vote, you have to abide by that.
“Even if they voted to retain the status quo, for anyone to then use the armed struggle in the event of that happening would probably be morally wrong to continue a campaign of violence after the people have spoken,” he said.
Mr Donnelly was then asked why he had earlier refused to shake hands with Martin McGuinness after the two met outside the polling station.
As Mr McGuinness walked past Mr Donnelly and into the polling station, neither acknowledged the other.
After Mr McGuinness left the polling station he walked towards Mr Donnelly and offered to shake his hand.
Mr Donnelly stood with his hands in his pockets and stared straight ahead.
“I did not shake hands with Martin McGuinness.
“He approached me and offered his hand but I refused to shake his hand.
“I personally do not have a problem shaking anyone's hand if they are sincere and genuine, but I have no trust in Martin McGuinness because he has launched a number of personal attacks on me and on the republican community, and I have a problem shaking hands with someone who, basically, I just do not trust,” Mr Donnelly said.
Meanwhile, Mr McGuinness described Mr Donnelly as someone who was prepared to destroy the peace process.
“Yes he refused to shake my hand, but that is a matter for himself and for those he supports.
“They have refused to come into the room and discuss with people like myself and Gerry Adams, and indeed with Father Michael Canny, the folly of their actions.
“Some people still live in the past.
“I do not want to forget the past but I am living for the here and now and for the future of our children and grandchildren,” he said.