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Irish government should lay out stall on united Ireland, says ex-Alliance MLA Lunn

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Open forum: Independent MLA Trevor Lunn believes we should discuss what a united Ireland would look like

Open forum: Independent MLA Trevor Lunn believes we should discuss what a united Ireland would look like

Open forum: Independent MLA Trevor Lunn believes we should discuss what a united Ireland would look like

An MLA who was previously a senior figure in the Alliance Party has opened the door to a discussion on a united Ireland.

Trevor Lunn, who now sits as an independent at Stormont, has called on the Irish government to stop tiptoeing around unionism, take the initiative and lay out Ireland's unity stall.

Ireland should not wait until a Border poll is called when emotions may run high, according to Mr Lunn (74), formerly chair of Alliance and an MLA for the party for 13 years.

Mr Lunn, who describes himself as "a slightly unionist leaning politician", believes there is a growing body of people in Northern Ireland prepared to discuss new possibilities. They need information now to help them reach a considered decision on where their best interests lie, he urges.

"There is a group of undecided citizens, and I regard myself as one of them. We're at the point where these things need to be talked about in a more measured, unconfrontational way," said Mr Lunn, an MLA for Lagan Valley.

"So I'd say to the Southern government don't wait for a referendum to put some of these things on the table. They shouldn't wait until we get into the heat of a referendum campaign before they do it.

"Lay it out in some sort of document. Let people absorb it, give them time for reflection and a proper consideration of the issues. Doing it in advance would be a very useful exercise in the interests of certainty and to give a measure of reassurance about the matters that concern people."

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And he had a word of advice for the Micheal Martin-led administration in Dublin, adding: "Don't be afraid of offending unionism. Unionism is easily offended. They don't speak for everybody up here."

Mr Lunn, a former Mayor of Lisburn, said he assumed a unity referendum would be called within the next five years.

"Brexit has changed people's attitudes. People up here are now prepared to look south as well as east to establish where their best interests might lie," he said.

"The Republic could start the discussion and, equally, unionism can make the case for continuing with what they hold dear.

"Between Brexit and the attitude of the British government and the way it's treated Northern Ireland in the last year or so, things are changing. People here who I know are unionist are prepared to talk about the constitutional question.

"If you accept that change is coming, then you may as well be in on the conversation. If something is going to happen and you have the option to talk about it in advance or not, the choice is fairly obvious.

"Let's talk about it. That's all I say. I'm not advocating for a united Ireland - I'm saying it's a process we need to get into."

The DUP warned against Dublin "interference" when the Taoiseach launched his Shared Island Unit recently, while the UUP said it had no intention of engaging with it.

Mr Lunn noted that Northern Ireland has a 60% turnout at most elections, meaning 40% of our population holds views which are not necessarily reflected in the Assembly's composition.

"A lot of people nowadays are disenchanted with Stormont, and don't vote," he said. "But they still have a view on this question. They remain to be convinced one way or the other."

A former insurance broker, he parted company with Alliance earlier this year over "irreconcilable differences" and remains in Stormont as an Independent.


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