Arlene Foster: There will be no border poll in my lifetime
DUP leader Arlene Foster has said she does not expect to see a referendum on a united Ireland in her lifetime.
The former First Minister 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, Mrs 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."
Mrs Foster said the forthcoming Westminster election was an opportunity to "send a very clear message" about Northern Ireland's place in the UK, as she denied that Brexit had fuelled republicanism. Mrs Foster also hinted that technology could ease the issue of a hard border with the south, citing the example of the frontier 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.
Reacting to her comments, Sinn Fein's Chris Hazzard accused the DUP leader of "running scared of public opinion".
He said: "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."
On a canvass in Co Antrim yesterday, Mrs Foster rubbished republican attempts to differentiate IRA attacks on Manchester from the suicide bomb outrage.
She contrasted the condemnation of Monday's atrocity by Sinn Fein Stormont leader Michelle O'Neill, who also signed a book of condolence, with her attendance at a recent commemoration in Co Tyrone for eight IRA men shot dead by the SAS as they attempted to blow up a police station in Loughgall. Critics have accused Sinn Fein of hypocrisy and double standards for its response to the outrage in Manchester, given the IRA detonated bombs in the same city during the Troubles.
"Of course she has condemned Manchester, my goodness who wouldn't?" said the former Stormont First Minister.
"Then you have to reflect on the fact that only a few weeks ago she was... commemorating those who were going out to murder. I think that's where the hypocrisy lies in all of this."
As a teenager Mrs Foster was on a school bus blown up by the IRA.
Some republicans have insisted the IRA's actions in Manchester were different because they issued bomb warnings.
"I was on a bus that didn't have any warning in terms of being blown up," said Mrs Foster.
"So it is just a nonsense to talk about the fact that there were warnings given in every sort of circumstances."