Belfast Telegraph

No border poll before Brexit resolved says Coveney as Sinn Fein urge vote within five years

Simon Coveney (Rebecca Black/PA)
Simon Coveney (Rebecca Black/PA)

Tanaiste Simon Coveney has rejected Sinn Fein's call for a vote on Irish unity to be held within the next five years.

The Irish Foreign Minister was speaking after Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald made the vow in her address at the party's ard fheis in Londonderry at the weekend.

She said that Ireland would be united within the next decade and called for the Irish government to convene an All-Ireland forum to "map the transition".

However, Mr Coveney poured cold water on the plans, saying that any unity vote without Brexit being resolved would escalate tensions between nationalists and unionists in Northern Ireland.

“I think calls for border polls when we haven’t resolved the Brexit issues are not a good idea. I have said that many times, I think there is enough tension in Northern Ireland right now,” he told the Irish Times.

“There is enough polarisation between nationalists and unionists without adding calls for border polls to be pulled into the middle of all that. We have enough to do to settle the issues relating to Brexit for Northern Ireland.”

The Tanaiste said his main focus was on getting Stormont up and running again.

“We need to work with all parties and we need to work as two governments to try to ensure we protect the institutions of the Good Friday agreement through the Brexit process and out the other side. That is challenging," Mr Coveney said.

“I hope there will be an appetite in Sinn Fein and the DUP and the UUP and the SDLP and the Alliance and the others to work with the two governments to make that happen sooner rather than later."

The Fianna Gael deputy leader said he believed an Assembly election could take place early next year if devolution was not restored.

Last week Secretary of State Julian Smith said that he would be duty-bound to call an election is an agreement was not reached by January.

“I think what Julian has been saying, there are few options when legislation runs out and one of those is an Assembly election which I think is a likely outcome beyond January 13th if we can’t put devolved government in place by then," Mr Coveney said.

Speaking at the ard fheis Mrs McDonald indicated that her party was willing to enter a coalition government with Fine Gael or Fianna Fail if they agreed to “implement a republican programme for government”.

Mr Coveney flat-out rejected the proposal.

“No, we have made it very clear that we don’t think Fine Gael and Sinn Fein are compatible Government partners. So I think the answer to that is a very emphatic No.” he said

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