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Varadkar says border poll would be defeated as new survey shows Irish unity vote would be close

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar does not want to see an Irish unity vote anytime soon because he does not think it would be successful.

Mr Varadkar was speaking ahead of a visit to Belfast on Friday where he will be the first Taoiseach to visit the Headquarters of the Orange Order.

He will also launch the west Belfast Feile an Phobail at St Mary's University College.

The Taoiseach said he did not want a border poll in the near future as he did not think it would help the political situation in Northern Ireland.

"I think a border poll would be defeated and very divisive," he told BBC Radio Ulster's Good Morning Ulster programme.

"We should be respecting the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) and, at the heart of the GFA, is power-sharing within Northern Ireland, ever-increasing cooperation within the north and south and peace in Britain and Ireland.

"While the GFA provides for the possibility of a border poll, and would allow that to pass by a majority of one, I don't think the time or the conditions are right.

"I think the focus should be on getting the institutions up and running again, rather than focusing on a border poll."

Mr Varadkar's comments come after former First Minister Peter Robinson said holding fixed generational polls on Irish unification could be a way to stabilise politics in Northern Ireland.

A new study conducted for the BBC by Lucid Talk has shown that it would be hard to predict the result of a potential border poll.

Last month an academics poll by Ipsos MORI found that just 21.1% of people in Northern Ireland would vote for Irish unity after the UK leaves the EU.

However, the new poll showed that 45% of those asked would vote for Northern Ireland to stay in the UK while 42% would vote for Northern Ireland to join a united Ireland.

The poll suggests that the result would be decided by the 13% of people who said they were undecided or would not vote in the poll.

It found that only 47% of people in Northern Ireland identified themselves as British, less than the number who consider themselves Irish, Northern Irish or European.

The BBC survey found that 4% of Catholics defined themselves as British in comparison with 29% of Protestants who considered themselves Irish.

28% of respondents to the survey said that Brexit made them more likely to vote for a united Ireland.

Belfast Telegraph Digital

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