Belfast Telegraph

No plans for N Ireland border poll

There are no present plans to call a poll on Northern Ireland's constitutional future, the Government has insisted.

The Northern Ireland Office made clear its position on a potential referendum amid a political debate sparked by a renewed Sinn Fein campaign for the vote.

The Democratic Unionist Party said it was considering calling republicans' bluff by backing their call for the so-called border poll.

DUP economy minister Arlene Foster said she was confident the outcome of any such plebiscite would strengthen the Union.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, Secretary of State Theresa Villiers has the authority to trigger a vote if there is evidence indicating majority support for a united Ireland.

A spokeswoman for Mrs Villiers said that was not the case at present.

"Given the state of opinion in Northern Ireland, which is clearly expressed in election results and opinion polls, the Government has no present plans to call such a poll," she said.

"We believe that political attention is really better focused elsewhere. It is crucial that political leaders here concentrate on working together on pressing economic and social issues, including the rebalancing of the NI economy and building a genuinely shared society, rather than being diverted into divisive constitutional debates."

Sinn Fein has called for a referendum on the national question during the next Stormont Assembly term. In an unexpected development, Mrs Foster revealed that her party was considering backing the republican call.

She said holding the vote would demonstrate the strength of support for the Union and expose Sinn Fein's "fantasy politics".

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