Belfast Telegraph

Simple majority in unity vote enough: Mike Nesbitt

From left: David Honeyford , Sophie Long, chair David McCann, Dr Jim Dornan and Mike Nesbitt
From left: David Honeyford , Sophie Long, chair David McCann, Dr Jim Dornan and Mike Nesbitt
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

Former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt has said 50% plus one in a border poll would be enough to secure Irish unity.

Speaking at the first all-unionist panel debate at the West Belfast Festival last night, Mr Nesbitt said he didn't know if a united Ireland could ever be "a warm house" for unionists.

He challenged nationalists to tell unionists they were wanted in any new state.

He took part in the debate with obstetrician and gynaecologist Professor Jim Dornan, the father of actor Jamie Dornan; former Progressive Unionist Party Press officer Sophie Long, who is now a member of the Green Party, and former NI21 member David Honeyford, who is now an Alliance Party member.

Asked if a simple majority was enough in a border poll or if the threshold should be raised, Mr Nesbitt said: "It can't be anything other than 50% plus one - that's democracy."

Unionists who said a 52% vote for Brexit was enough "didn't have much wriggle room", he added.

Mr Nesbitt said that, in terms of Dail arithmetic, unionists could find themselves "perpetual king-makers" in a united Ireland and joked to the audience: "So be careful what you wish for."

He said nationalists must be more proactive in embracing unionists if they wanted to strengthen the argument for unity.

"I have heard you legitimately for many years express your desire for a new unitary state on this island. Recently, I have also heard people talk about protecting the rights of the unionist, British community, but what I haven't heard is: 'We want you'," he told the audience.

He was deeply critical of unionists for never saying the same to nationalists after partition.

He also spoke about his relationship with Martin McGuinness. He revealed that he had once told the Sinn Fein politician something that could have ended his own career. Mr McGuinness had kept his confidence, and he described him as a "man of political integrity".

Mr Dornan said nationalists had to make a detailed case for Irish unity and he'd like to see any proposed deal in "a 200-page dossier".

He accepted 50% plus one was enough in a border poll, but said he'd prefer if there was a "resounding" yes of over 70% as with the Good Friday Agreement. A Sinn Fein-only led campaign would either fail or scrape home, he warned.

Unlike Arlene Foster, he said he wouldn't leave in the event of Irish unity, and it was "a mistake" for the DUP leader to have made such a "reactionary comment".

He expressed hope for a second referendum on leaving the EU and said Brexit's main proponents weren't "people I'd like to have dinner with".

He was optimistic Brexit could be reversed by another poll, and said one-and-a-half million people who voted to Leave would likely be dead when the next election took place.

Belfast Telegraph


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