Belfast Telegraph

Gerry Adams border call 'divisive and destabilising', says DUP's Arlene Foster

By Jonathan Bell

Arlene Foster has said a border poll would be "divisive and destabilising" saying instead Northern Ireland needed a functioning government.

At a Sinn Fein conference, party leader Adams said that while he will be seeking re-election for president of the party, they would be announcing their succession plans for when he steps down.

He also said his party would bring forward a white paper in the Republic on a border poll within five years. He said this would be “achievable and winnable”.

DUP Leader Arlene Foster rejected the call.

"Northern Ireland needs stability," she said.  That means we need a functioning government to make vital decisions.  We do not need a divisive and destabilizing border poll.

"A united-Ireland will always be the goal of republicans and nationalists.  As a unionist, I will always campaign for Northern Ireland remaining within the Union. Support for the union has never been greater.

"Such support does not just stem from a love for the NHS or the economic stability of the United Kingdom. It is much broader than that. The case for the union doesn’t rely upon money.  The United Kingdom is not the biggest nation in the world but our language, our music, our literature, our arts and our sporting success projects a power around the globe that pure numbers of people can never do."

In the Good Friday Agreement, a border poll can be called by the Secretary of State if it appears likely a majority would vote for a united Ireland. However, there can be no future poll for at least seven years.

Mrs Foster continued: "There will be no border poll as there is no evidence of overwhelming support for a united-Ireland. Holding, or indeed even just proposing, a border-poll within five years is not sensible.  It will propel Northern Ireland into a cycle of referenda. This is nothing short of wishful thinking by Gerry Adams.

"I want Northern Ireland to have a period of stability where we can deal with matters affecting health, education, investment and infrastructure.  In negotiating a confidence and supply agreement with the Conservatives, the package of measures delivered for everyone in Northern Ireland demonstrated our priorities.  Delivering such investment should be our focus.

"I am not surprised by Gerry Adams’ attachment to a narrow political project but it is time he and those around him lifted their eyes and considered the damage recent instability is having upon everyone in Northern Ireland."

Ulster Unionist Party leader Robin Swann described Mr Adams’  call for a poll as an act of "attention seeking" from someone "who knows that his time is running out".   

"Just as the IRA`s terrorist campaign ended in failure, so his party`s campaign for a United Ireland is also doomed to failure and he is desperately searching for a fig leaf in the shape of a border poll," said Mr Swann.

“There is no need for one, there is no evidence of support for one, and if we did go down that route, it would mean a never ending cycle of border polls which would serve to increase divisions in our society.

“A border poll call is a distraction from the other issues. And that is exactly what Adams wants. He wants people to ignore the thousands suffering on waiting lists, ignore the cuts to school budgets and ignore the need for more jobs and investment."

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