Belfast Telegraph

Referendum on a united Ireland will not happen, says Arlene Foster

Former Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster has said she does not expect to see a referendum on a united Ireland in her lifetime.

The DUP leader dismissed renewed talk of a border poll on the issue, which has been driven largely by Sinn Fein.

During an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme, Ms Foster was asked if she was confident there would not be a border poll in her lifetime.

She replied: "I'm very confident about that.

"One of the difficulties with Brexit is the fact that people are superimposing Brexit on another issue, which of course in Scotland is independence and in Northern Ireland is a united Ireland.

"There are many unionists who voted to remain within the European Union, but if they were asked the question around staying in the United Kingdom or going into a united Ireland, they would very firmly say that they wanted to stay in the United Kingdom, for all of the reasons I have spoken about.

"It won't happen."

Ms Foster said the forthcoming Westminster elections were an opportunity to "send a very clear message" about Northern Ireland's place in the UK, as she denied that Brexit had fuelled republicanism.

Ms Foster also hinted that technology could ease the issue of a hard border with the south, citing the example of the border between Norway and Sweden.

"I'm not saying that we copy what goes on there, but I am saying there are already examples," she said.

Ms Foster stepped down as first minister earlier this year in the fallout from a renewable energy scheme, which has led to the collapse of the executive in Northern Ireland.

Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard accused Mrs Foster of "running scared" of public opinion on a border poll.

He claimed she was showing "arrogance and contempt for the democratic process".

"The Tory government's attempt to drag us out of the EU against the democratic wishes of the majority of people in the north has put the debate on Irish unity front and centre in the political agenda," he said.

"The Good Friday Agreement contains provision for a referendum on Irish unity and that cannot be swept aside by Arlene Foster or anyone else.

"It is not in the DUP's gift to determine when the people can have their say on Irish unity. Her comments are another example of the arrogance of the DUP.

"Sinn Fein has called for a referendum on unity to be held within the next five years and we are building support for that."

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