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DUP man adamant referendum result has not weakened unionist position in province

By John Mulgrew

Published 04/07/2016

Simon Hamilton
Simon Hamilton

Unionism in Northern Ireland has not been weakened by the UK's decision to leave the EU, according to Economy Minister Simon Hamilton.

And he said if an Irish border poll was called "I would be absolutely confident of the outcome".

Asked whether, post-Brexit vote, nationalists and others previously content with being part of the UK would now wish to become part of a united Ireland in order to remain in the EU, he said: "I'm not saying that there aren't people who have that view. I don't think it's a widely-held view.

"A substantial number of nationalist voters know that Northern Ireland is better off in the UK. That is what various surveys have shown.

"The Secretary of State has made it clear she doesn't believe the circumstances have been met for a border poll. I think she's right.

"If there were a border poll, I would be absolutely confident of the outcome."

Referring to the strength of the Union, and despite the prospect of Scotland voting to leave the UK, Mr Hamilton believes it is "as secure as it has ever been".

"The issue on the ballot paper was not our membership of the United Kingdom. It was our membership of the EU. In my view, it has absolutely no bearing on that. The overwhelming majority of people in Northern Ireland know that they are better off as part of the UK.

"There will be all sorts of people who want to see a united Ireland, trying to desperately cling on to anything that gives them any prospect of that - the vote doesn't do that."

Asked whether he believes the Leave campaign misled voters, he said: "I think there were a lot of claims made on both sides of the debate."

And on EU funding - of which his department alone received more than €300m (£250m) in a seven-year period between 2007 and 2013 - he said there was "clearly going to be a need to continue to fund projects".

Mr Hamilton commented: "I accept there are questions around how this is shaped, and I can't give you an answer as to what funding model is going to be in place post-British exit from the EU."

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