Gerry Adams' border poll call is a stunt by leader whose time is running out, say unionists
Unionists have dismissed Gerry Adams' call for a border poll as an attention-seeking stunt by a political leader whose time is running out.
Revealing that he is putting in place plans to step down as Sinn Fein president, Mr Adams also said his party would bring forward a white paper in the Republic on an Irish unity referendum within five years.
He told a gathering of his party in Co Meath that he would be seeking re-election as Sinn Fein president at its coming Ard Fheis.
But he added: "If elected I will be setting out our priorities and, in particular, our planned process of generational change, including my own future intentions."
He stated that Sinn Fein's 10-year internal plan, to which Martin McGuinness had contributed, included setting out an "orderly leadership change".
He said: "It is our intention to unveil at the Ard Fheis in November the plan that he helped to formulate." Mr Adams insisted that a border poll was "achievable and winnable".
However, UUP leader Robin Swann said Sinn Fein's campaign for Irish unity was doomed to failure.
"Time is running out for Gerry Adams. He is desperately searching for a fig leaf in the shape of a border poll," Mr Swann said.
The UUP leader said there was no evidence of support for a referendum on Irish unity. "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," he said.
Mr Swann claimed that when the Sinn Fein president finally retired, he wouldn't be missed by the people of Northern Ireland.
"Gerry Adams is incredibly vain and this teaser that he has thrown out about possibly standing down at some unspecified time in the future is further massaging his ego.
"When he does stand down it will be welcomed by many people across these islands. Most people will probably wish that they had never heard of him given the untold suffering inflicted by the IRA as it pursued its failed but brutal sectarian campaign."
DUP leader Arlene Foster said that Northern Ireland needed stability and a functioning government, not a 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," she said.
Under the Good Friday Agreement, a border poll can be called by the Secretary of State if it appears likely a majority would support Irish unity.
However, there can be no further poll for at least seven years.
Mrs Foster said: "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."
Ms Foster added: "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."
Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry said Mr Adams' insistence on an Irish Language Act before agreeing to restore power-sharing did nothing to dispel "the perception Sinn Fein is pursuing a chaos strategy".
"There was nothing in this speech which gave any indication Sinn Fein are willing to show any sense of compromise or any sense of responsibility towards good governance and public services," Mr Farry said.
"Gerry Adams' speech did nothing to dispel the perception Sinn Fein is pursuing a chaos strategy. In fact, it reinforced it.
"While Alliance respects everyone's constitutional aspirations, a border poll at this stage or even a debate on it would be a major distraction from what should be a singular focus on getting stable and inclusive power-sharing restored as soon as possible."