A referendum on a united Ireland could be held before 2016, Regional Development Minister Conor Murphy has claimed.
The fading international spotlight on Northern Ireland and the current economic climate could create the right environment to go to a vote, the Sinn Fein MLA told supporters last night.
At a public briefing, An Ireland of Equals — the Peace Process and Beyond, held in the House of Commons, Mr Murphy added that reunification was not a spectator sport.
“We were accused of setting 2016 as the date for the hundred-year anniversary. It may take longer,” he said.
“I actually think it could happen sooner than that in reality if we keep the momentum going when the economic realities and the political realities hit.
“We have received an awful lot of attention over the last 10 years with American presidents and other nations dropping in but that will start to wane.
“Then we will start to realise we are a small island, we have quite a lot going for us.
“All these small signs show we will ultimately have to take charge of ourselves in the end,” he added.
At the wide-ranging briefing he said one of the major policing issues for the party was the continued operation of a “force within a force” in small sections of the PSNI, adding that some departments were underperfoming and struggling to cope with the switch to community policing.
He also predicted the party would do better than expected in next year’s European elections, particularly if the DUP struggles to stave off Jim Allister’s TUV.
But he said the DUP was elevating Mr Allister “to a level he doesn’t deserve”, and should “learn the lessons of Trimble” instead of becoming paralysed by the perceived threat at the ballot box.
Mr Murphy also touched on the unresolved problem of the education overhaul that means the end of the 11-plus, calling for “maturity” from the DUP in finding a solution.
The meeting was held as part of Sinn Fein’s attempt to strengthen its network of support outside Northern Ireland.