Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein ignoring education and health in pursuit of border poll, says DUP's Campbell

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (far right) speaking at the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, yesterday
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald (far right) speaking at the Metropolitan Arts Centre, Belfast, yesterday
Gerry Adams in the audience

By Allan Preston and Lauren Harte

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has accused Sinn Fein of being "blinded" by their aspiration for a united Ireland while allowing critical issues around education and health to go unresolved.

The East Londonderry MP was speaking after Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald called for a referendum on Irish unity in the event of a no-deal Brexit and a hard border.

Mr Campbell accused Ms McDonald of a U-turn after she said last July that a border poll should not be held while uncertainty around Brexit remains.

"Rather than trying to tell unionists they would be accommodated in a united Ireland, Sinn Fein would be better to prove their commitment to a shared future by showing respect to unionists in Northern Ireland today," the DUP politician said.

"Mary Lou McDonald and her party must have their heads in the clouds. They are so blinded by their dreams of a united Ireland they don't even see the reality on the ground."

Mr Campbell added Ms McDonald should "recognise that people care more about hospitals and schools than her rhetoric about a united Ireland".

Earlier Ms McDonald vowed to tell Boris Johnson today that he must be prepared to call a border poll if he is willing to leave the EU without a deal.

Addressing party members at the Mac Theatre in Belfast, she described the new Prime Minister as "jingoistic and bullish" and accused him of trying to bully the Irish government and the EU over Brexit.

Ms McDonald added that there was no progress on efforts to restore Stormont but the problems were not "intractable" and called on the Irish government to plan for a united Ireland.

She said a determination by Mr Johnson to leave the EU by October 31, demands to scrap the backstop and threats to withhold the £39bn divorce bill was an attempt to "bully the EU and Ireland to accept less than the minimum of the withdrawal Agreement and the backstop".

She also accused the Government of disregarding the Good Friday Agreement and trying "to set the clock back" by threatening to introduce direct rule.

"This is absolutely unacceptable and represents a huge threat to all of our people on this island," Ms McDonald said.

On efforts to restore Stormont, she said Sinn Fein and the DUP were no closer to a compromise.

"The DUP focus is on protecting the Union above else, regardless of the consequences for society, the economy and for our people," she said. "They ignore the anti-Brexit vote of the northern electorate.

"Some DUP leaders see a hard border as the best way to maintain the Union."

With three months until the Brexit deadline, she pointed to a prediction from the Department for the Economy that said 40,000 jobs in Northern Ireland were at risk from a no-deal Brexit.

"This is a huge number of job losses for a small region. The DUP refuses to acknowledge what their Brexit will mean for our businesses, for our agri-food producers, our workers, our community sector, if the British crash out of the EU with no deal."

Ms McDonald said if the Government was willing to accept the risk of a hard border, a unity referendum should be on the table.

As well as establishing a forum on Irish unity, she called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to appoint a dedicated government minister on the issue, with the forum to include unionist views.

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph