Belfast Telegraph

Having Irish border poll during Brexit would be divisive, destabilising and foolish: Naomi Long

Alliance Party representatives Donnamarie Higgins, candidate for west Belfast, party leader Naomi Long, MLA for south Belfast Paula Bradshaw and former Lord Mayor of Belfast and Councillor for north Belfast Nuala McAllister dropping off their nomination papers (Liam McBurney/PA)
Alliance Party representatives Donnamarie Higgins, candidate for west Belfast, party leader Naomi Long, MLA for south Belfast Paula Bradshaw and former Lord Mayor of Belfast and Councillor for north Belfast Nuala McAllister dropping off their nomination papers (Liam McBurney/PA)
Andrew Madden

By Andrew Madden

Alliance leader Naomi Long has warned against a border poll in the current Brexit climate, saying it would be a "very foolish and destabilising process".

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Mrs Long made the comments during a General Election phone-in on BBC Radio Ulster's Talkback show.

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum, Sinn Fein has been calling for a border poll for the people of Northern Ireland to decide if they want to stay in the EU via a united Ireland.

A recent YouGov poll found that a majority of Remainers and Leavers in Great Britain would be prepared to ditch Northern Ireland in favour of their preferred Brexit outcome.

Naomi Long was asked her views on holding a border poll in such a situation.

"I believe that given the chaos there has been around Brexit, that to have a border poll, another significant referendum, at a time when we are not clear of the likely outcome, when it's an unsettled and chaotic situation, would actually be doing our economy and our community a disservice," she said.

The Alliance leader she believes Brexit has always been driven by a form of English nationalism, which is "alienating" other parts of the UK and has "reinvigorated" nationalism elsewhere.

"The timing of this is absolutely crucial - we had a Brexit referendum and no one knew what the post-Brexit landscape would look like," she said.

"People ended up voting on a whole host of other things, their disaffection with how their communities were being treated, their lack of empowerment in terms of making their lives better.

"The danger of having a border poll without clear intention and shaping as to what any post-border poll Northern Ireland might look like, whether it's one that opts to remain in the UK or whether it's one that opts for a united Ireland, I think would be a very foolish and destabilising process."

Ms Long was asked why she feels the need to "alienate protestant communities" during elections by siding with a "republican, terrorist's organisation's political wing - Sinn Fein".

Sinn Fein has consistently denied it is the political wing of the IRA.

Mrs Long responded: "If you're talking about us alienating unionists, it's simply not true. Yes I would agree that there has been a lot of traction online accusing us of being part of some 'pan-nationalist front' and if you look down my Twitter feed on any given day you'll see me being accused of being a 'closet unionist'.

"The truth is we don't vote with parties or against parties. We vote on issues. We look at the substance of the issue that is brought before the Council, we look at the substance of the issue when it is brought before the Assembly, or indeed to Europe.

"We vote on the basis of what we believe is best for the people of Northern Ireland."

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