Belfast Telegraph

Orange Order chief 'will accept united Ireland' if majority votes for it

Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order
Mervyn Gibson of the Orange Order

The Grand Secretary of the Orange Order has said that he would be willing to accept a united Ireland if the majority of people in Northern Ireland voted for it.

Rev Mervyn Gibson told the Irish Times that if a united Ireland came about as a result of a border poll he would accept the democratic result and was not "going to go to war over it".

However, Mr Gibson said that he was not worried about the prospect of a united Ireland anytime soon and that attempts to link it to Brexit were part of "project fear".

Mr Gibson said that he is "proud to be from Northern Ireland", but that he felt he had an "all-Ireland dimension" as his father and grandfather were born in Co Donegal.

He praised Taoiseach Leo Varadkar for a visit to the Orange Order headquarters in Belfast last year, saying it was "pivotal in changing and improving relationships".

Mr Gibson accused those of saying Brexit could lead to a united Ireland of using "scare tactics" and said they were "playing politics" with the issue.

He said that he has "nothing to fear from politics" and that he didn't see the need for a border poll "right away".

“What will come will come but I am not a doom-gloom merchant, saying it is around the corner,” the Orange Order Grand Secretary said.

“The only thing that will take us into a united Ireland is a vote of the majority of the people. As a democrat, I’ll accept that. I’m not going to go to war over it.

“We will survive as a British people here in Northern Ireland. We have faced a lot bigger challenges than that.

Taoiseach LeoVaradkar shakes hands with the Reverend Mervyn Gibson at Government Buildings in Dublin
Taoiseach LeoVaradkar shakes hands with the Reverend Mervyn Gibson at Government Buildings in Dublin

“We couldn’t be bombed or bullied out of the United Kingdom. We are not going to be bribed out of it now either.”

Mr Gibson said that he believed little will change as a result of Brexit and that the issue was being used to "unsettle the constitutional question" and "create apathy among British people".

He questioned how unionists in the farming community could express support for a united Ireland if it directly benefited them.

“One wonders that if someone can change their allegiance for purely economic reasons, what was their allegiance in the first place?” Mr Gibson said.

He also admitted that he regularly signs Irish passport forms for unionists and loyalists.

“It surprises me but I don’t think it diminishes a person’s Britishness. They are not signing them to be Irish; they are signing them for European citizenship, for the benefits of living or working in Europe,” Mr Gibson said.

The Orange Order Grand Secretary also touched on recent comments from the actor James Nesbitt who said that he wanted to have a conversation about a "new union of Ireland".

Mr Gibson said that some people from a unionist background "when they become famous" sometimes change their stance because unionism is viewed as being "on the wrong side of history"  while "republicanism has all the romanticism".

“People associate with that as opposed to what is viewed, wrongly in my opinion, as a bigoted and sectarian culture,” he said.

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