Belfast Telegraph

There's no majority for unity, but Union is under pressure says ex-NIO Spad

Lord Caine said he believes this view is shared by the Dublin Government. He was speaking in Belfast at the Northern Ireland Attorney General's constitutional law summer school
Lord Caine said he believes this view is shared by the Dublin Government. He was speaking in Belfast at the Northern Ireland Attorney General's constitutional law summer school
Suzanne Breen

By Suzanne Breen

The longest serving special adviser in the Northern Ireland Office has said there would be "a comfortable majority for the Union" if a border poll was held tomorrow.

Lord Caine said he believes this view is shared by the Dublin Government. He was speaking in Belfast at the Northern Ireland Attorney General's constitutional law summer school.

The Tory peer, who has served under six Secretaries of State, appears not to have been reappointed by Downing Street.

Two other special advisers (Spads) who worked with Karen Bradley - Romilly Dennys and Kris Hopkins - have also not been retained. The Belfast Telegraph has been told that the two new special advisers are Ross Easton, who worked at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government, and Lilah Howson-Smith, who was an adviser in the chief whip's office.

It is understood that the third and most senior special adviser hasn't yet been appointed.

Speaking on Wednesday, Lord Caine said he didn't believe the Union was in "any immediate peril" but it "is coming under increased and sustained pressure".

The BBC reported that the Tory peer believed "the period of relative constitutional stability ushered in by the 1998 Agreement" was at risk of being seriously undermined.

Lord Caine said he was "the person who has without question spent more time in meetings with Sinn Fein than any other Conservative in British political history".

Although he believed a border poll would be easily won by unionists, calling one in the foreseeable future would be "just about the most divisive and destabilising thing that could be done here".

It would be "a distraction when the focus really needs to be about restoring the Belfast Agreement institutions and making the 1998 political dispensation work", he said. He warned that while Irish unity was not "inevitable", unionists couldn't ignore the "clear warning signs".

There should be "a grown-up conversation about how we set out a modern, compelling case for the Union that reaches out to all generations here and to all parts of the community", he said.

Unionists must recognise that the Union's future rested on convincing moderate nationalists their best interests lay in remaining within the UK.

Lord Caine urged the Government to be "more proactive in setting out the benefits that Northern Ireland derives from membership of the UK. Not in any bellicose or partisan way, wrapped in a Union flag, but soberly and clearly giving people the facts about what membership of the UK delivers".

Belfast Telegraph

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph