Belfast Telegraph

Wilson joins Robinson critics after former First Minister says Northern Ireland should prepare for a united Ireland

By Gareth Cross

DUP MP Sammy Wilson has become the latest senior unionist figure to criticise his former party leader Peter Robinson for saying Northern Ireland should prepare for a united Ireland.

TUV leader Jim Allister and former UUP leader Lord Empey had previously condemned the comments.

In a speech at the MacGill Summer School in Glentines, Co Donegal on Friday Mr Robinson said that he believed Northern Ireland should prepare for the possibility, though he does not think Northern Ireland will want to leave.

“I don’t expect my own house to burn down but I still insure it because it could happen,” Mr Robinson said.

East Antrim MP Wilson said comments were "an invitation to republican arsonists to come in and burn our house down".

Mr Allister said that the speech was "beyond crass" while Lord Empey said that the DUP founding member's comments would be "music to the ears of Irish republicans" and the Irish Government.

Mr Robinson said that he believed unionists would accept the results of a border poll that led to a united Ireland.

“As soon as that decision is taken every democrat will have to accept that decision,” he said.

Earlier this year Mr Robinson said that border polls should be held at fixed dates to avoid destabilising Northern Ireland politics.

Mr Wilson called the comments "dangerous and demoralising" but acknowledged his former party leader was a "committed unionist".

"I don't prepare to go to the moon in Richard Branson's space shuttle because I have no intention of ending up there," he said.

"Preparing for a possible united Ireland is not an insurance policy against something unpleasant happening, it is an invitation to republican arsonists to come in and burn our house down."

"I want to preach the reasons why we should keep the union, not prepare for its destruction".

North Antrim MLA Allister said that no unionist should do anything to encourage those campaigning for a border poll.

"Little wonder social media lit up with welcome from Sinn Fein disciples singing his praises as they enjoyed the music he had brought to their ears. By his crass comments he fed the republican myth of the inevitability of Irish unity."

Mr Allister said that the former DUP leader was "yesteday's man" and called on Arlene Foster to clarify her position.

"Mr Robinson did not indicate what preparations should be made, but to even talk about preparations for leaving the UK is to encourage such an eventuality, as it anticipates the facilitation of such. Maybe we are all to start learning Irish - he didn't say," the TUV leader said.

"You'd wait a long time for Sinn Fein to advise preparing for Direct Rule, but here we have the former leader of unionism urging preparation for fulfilment of the republican dream. What self-evident folly!"

Lord Empey accused the former DUP leader of becoming a "Sinn Fein echo chamber".

"This is not strategic thinking, rather it's the latest in a long line of proposals from Peter Robinson that are detrimental to Northern Ireland whether that be the St Andrews Agreement, the terrorist shrine at the Maze or the DUP inspired HIU, cooked up under the Stormont House Agreement, which will be a parallel police force," he said.

He said the focus should be on Brexit rather than "nonsense" comments from his old political advesary Peter Robinson.

“His house insurance analogy is facile,” Lord Empey said.

The DUP has declined to comment on Mr Robinson's speech or the reaction to it.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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