Belfast Telegraph

Sinn Fein's McDonald says 'Tory Brexit chaos' should not delay Ireland border referendum

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald during an interview at the Sinn Fein party headquarters (Liam McBurney/PA)
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald during an interview at the Sinn Fein party headquarters (Liam McBurney/PA)

Sinn Fein's Mary Lou McDonald has said there should be no delay on an Irish unity vote - despite earlier calls for a border poll to be stalled while uncertainty around Britain leaving the European Union remains.

Speaking from Dublin's Leinster House on Tuesday, party president Mrs McDonald said "the disregard shown to Ireland by the Tory government underscores the imperative for Irish unity".

Mrs McDonald noted the current state of Brexit negotiations "does not provide the best environment for a referendum on Irish Unity", but added "Sinn Fein wants to see a referendum as soon as possible".

“A decision to exit the European Union was endorsed in England and Wales. It was rejected by the people of the north of Ireland and yet, it is to be imposed on them as though they didn't vote at all. This again highlights the democratic deficit of the union and the utter failure of partition," she said.

The comments indicate a change of tack from an interview on Monday with the Press Association at Sinn Fein's Belfast headquarters, in which Mrs McDonald warned against the potential pitfalls of holding a border poll while the Brexit process was ongoing, saying it was not her "preferred option" to do so in a climate "that is unsteady or unstable or chaotic".

"I would prefer, it is my strong preference, that we have sequencing that firstly delivers a level of economic and social certainty, in as much we can be certain, and stability, and from that base we then continue the conversation about Irish unity," she said.

Her comments were made after a furore over comments from former First Minister and DUP leader Peter Robinson, who said unionists should prepare for potentially losing a future border poll - something which drew the chagrin from across the unionists community, including his former party colleagues.

Mr Robinson was speaking at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal on Friday.

DUP MP Sammy Wilson said the remarks by Mr Robinson were "dangerous" and "out of kilter" with the thoughts of most unionists.

In April, Sinn Fein's leader in Northern Ireland Michelle O'Neill called for a vote on unite Ireland to be held within five years.

Addressing a crowd at an Easter Rising commemoration event in west Belfast, Mrs O'Neill said: "I am confident as the consequences of Brexit become clearer and as we get closer to the withdrawal stage that more people from a unionist background – will be open to the idea of exploring new relationships on our island, and between Ireland and Britain."

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