Businesses and ratepayers in Mid Ulster are to be consulted by the council on the prospect of Irish unity after elected representatives backed a Sinn Fein motion, despite strong opposition from unionists.
The motion brought forward by Cookstown councillor John McNamee at the last monthly meeting proposed “that this council recognises that the discussion about a constitutional change is now well under way and this council has a duty to consult with its ratepayers on this important issue and the implications for the council area.
“Therefore, calls on council to progress workshops on Irish unity and to begin a consultation with ratepayers and community and business representatives to assess views on issues related to constitutional change.”
Seconding the motion, his party colleague Niall McAleer said Brexit has shown how disastrous it can be for constitutional change to take place “without any sort of plan” and said these conversations need to begin.
However, DUP councillor Clement Cuthbertson said the motion was a prime example of Sinn Fein “attempting to cause divisions in this council and across the district” and said his party would oppose the motion.
Ulster Unionist Trevor Wilson called for Sinn Fein to “get a grip on reality”.
“The only demand for Irish unity is in their own heads,” said the Cookstown councillor.
“Dublin has no more desire to take on Northern Ireland now than it did in 1921 when it agreed to partition.
"Economically it would be a complete non-starter.”
Councillor Mark Glasgow noted a recent poll that claims 63% of those in the Republic and 54% of those in Northern Ireland would not want to pay for a United Ireland.
“If the Republic is not going to pay and neither is Northern Ireland, I seriously doubt Mid Ulster will have enough in the budget to be paying for it,” said Cllr Glasgow.
SDLP group leader, Councillor Malachy Quinn, said his party would support the motion and noted there has recently been a massive shift towards a campaign for Irish unity.
“This is not about us joining the Republic or remaining in the Union, this is about people right across this island, creating something brand new and exciting,” said Mr Quinn.
The motion was passed with the 25 members of Aontu, SDLP, Sinn Fein and independent councillors voting in favour of it while the 15 members of the DUP and UUP voted against.