Sinn Fein's O Muilleoir admits he got stats wrong on helping unionist community
'Too early' to go into specifics of future of institutions in event of border poll in favour of unity, says MLA
The former Stormont Finance Minister Mairtin O Muilleoir described the Northern Ireland economy as a "backwater" and said over half of those coming through the doors of his south Belfast constituency centre were from a unionist working class background.
However, he later corrected himself saying 51% of those through the doors of his officer were not from the nationalist community.
Apologies @BelTel & @stephennolan Got my stats mixed up - I was wrong to say 51% of Ormeau SF centre advice clinic users are unionist. As I Corrected on Nolan Live - 51% are not from nationalist community. That’s ✅ https://t.co/nT1Abtf9jt— Máirtín Ó Muilleoir (@newbelfast) February 14, 2019
The Sinn Fein MLA appeared on the BBC's Nolan Live on Wednesday evening. He said he knew of an increase of feeling among "middle-class unionists" for a border poll.
He was asked to make a pitch for a united Ireland.
He said: "It is my believe, the only independent research into the economic benefits of a united Ireland says there will be a 35 billion euro uplift over eight years.
"It says the economy in the north will grow by 7.5%.
"If you look at the backwater economy here, you look at the fastest growing economy in the south."
He was asked why he would describe the economy as a "backwater". Mr O Muilleoir said as a former finance minister he had seen it "first hand".
"We have the lowest productivity in these islands," he continued, "We have the longest enduring long-term employment in this region in these islands.
"We have the highest number of people on minimum wage. This economy, sadly, has failed the people that live here. And it is time for a change that will bring us the benefits."
The veteran politician said that for the 10 years Sin Fein was in government "every day we worked to improve the lot of the people."
"But if you are saying is there a way we can build a stronger economy, yes it is within an all-island economy.
"That was the great words of Sir George Quigley who was a unionist who said an all-island economy would bring benefits to everyone. So that is my belief.
"But I will put my arguments and then you will cast your vote if you are not afraid of a unity poll. We will see which argument will come out."
Mr O Muilleoir was asked for specifics on what would happen if a border poll resulted in favour on a united Ireland.
He said the futures of the PSNI, the BBC, health service, or education service would all have to be discussed but it was "too early" to go into those specifics and a debate would be needed.
"The argument and debate will start now," he said.
He did however, say he would not expect those institutions to disappear overnight and there would likely be a transition period and people should "absolutely" keep their citizenship.
"Those are decisions for the Irish people to make,"he said.
"We need to find a way to manage the change, which is coming.
"I want a united Ireland to be rights based, which is respectful, which cherishes the British and Irish tradition which is an agreed Ireland."
Mr O Muilleoir said Brexit had "changed everything" and more were considering Irish unity including some unionists.
"I meet some middle class unionists. I would not exaggerate it more than than... I'm not exaggerating."
He was asked about how he had supported working class unionists.
"It seems to me those that lose out the most in this society are working class unionists."
He explained how Sinn Fein had delivered money for the Taughmonagh Day Care Centre and was helping one man deal with an issue with the banks which had put his home under threat of repossession.
"Fifty-one percent of the people that come into the Sinn Fein centre are working class unionists," he said.
He later stated 51% of those entering the Ormeau Road office "were not from the nationalist community".
Belfast Telegraph Digital