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Sinn Fein's O'Neill says Irish unity referendum next step if there is no-deal Brexit

Sinn Fein Leaders Mary Lou McDonald (centre) and Michelle O’Neill (centre right) and their party colleagues leaving Leinster House
Sinn Fein Leaders Mary Lou McDonald (centre) and Michelle O’Neill (centre right) and their party colleagues leaving Leinster House
Former Lord Mayor of Belfast, Niall O Donnghaile, with British ambassador Robin Barnett

By David Young

The strategic opportunity to end Irish partition that Brexit has presented must be seized, Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill has said.

The party vice-president called for the transition to unification to begin during an address in Londonderry to mark the centenary of the first sitting of the Dail parliament at the outbreak of Ireland's War of Independence.

She told the Sinn Fein event in Derry's Guildhall that Brexit had created a "new dynamic" in the campaign for a border poll.

"Brexit challenges all of the old assumptions about the previous constitutional, political and economic status quo in the north and south of Ireland," said Ms O'Neill, who also joined colleagues and party leader, Mary Lou McDonald, in Dublin yesterday for anniversary events.

"It has exposed the undemocratic nature and failure of partition in Ireland which created an artificial future which has and will remain contested.

"The fulcrum of the Brexit crisis is the border in Ireland.

"There is a growing sense that circumstances are rapidly changing which will inevitably lead to the final break-up of the constitutional structures of the United Kingdom which Theresa May and the DUP say they are committed to preserving."

Ms O'Neill said the Prime Minister and Northern Ireland Secretary Karen Bradley had to call a unity referendum in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

"We have made it clear that in the case of a Brexit crash-out and no-deal scenario that it is absolutely incumbent on them to put the constitutional future to the people here through a unity referendum," she said.

"Their planned imposition of Brexit in Ireland once again demonstrates the failure of partition, and exposes further the gaping democratic deficit inherent in a partitioned Ireland.

"People from across this society, and even those of a British identity, are questioning what will be the merits, benefits of staying within the union after Brexit.

"The EU has said in the event of reunification, the whole of Ireland will automatically be subsumed back into the EU.

"So the debate on our constitutional future is as much about our relationship with Europe as it is about Ireland itself."

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