Northern Ireland news

Sinn Féin border poll position is consistent: Mary Lou McDonald

Mary Lou McDonald insists Sinn Féin's position on a border poll has been consistent. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Mary Lou McDonald has rejected suggestions that the party's position on a border poll has been inconsistent.

In July, the Sinn Féin leader said a referendum on Irish unity should not be held while uncertainty around Brexit remained.

But within 24 hours of her initial statement, the Dublin Central TD said her party wanted a border poll "as soon as possible" and that it should not be delayed by the "chaos of the Tory Brexit".

The sudden U-turn drew criticism from opponents who suggested Ms McDonald had been leaned on by senior backroom figures in Sinn Féin.

When quizzed yesterday, the party president insisted that her position had been consistent.

Speaking to RTÉ from the Sinn Féin 'think-in' in Co Cavan, Ms McDonald denied that she flip-flopped on the matter.

She said the two statements were "hardly a reversal" and that her party had always advocated a united Ireland.

"I have consistently said that a chaotic or crash Brexit is not the ideal acoustic – it's not the ideal background noise for what needs to be a very reasoned, respectful debate," she said.

"However, if the British government insist on crashing out of the European Union there will have to be a referendum on the union because the British could not inflict that level of jeopardy and damage on this country and imagine they would not put the constitutional question."

Ms McDonald denied the suggestion that she had been "nobbled" or forced to qualify the party's position.

She repeated that she did not want a border poll in the context of a "crash Brexit" because that would be "bad for Ireland north and south".

Meanwhile, an internal Sinn Féin document has revealed that thousands of public sector jobs could be lost in the event of a united Ireland.

An internal party paper says reunification will "of course" lead to "efficiencies in public services" as government agencies north and south merge.

The draft document entitled 'Irish Unity - An Activist's Guide' sets out a series of questions and answers under a heading 'How to have a conversation about Irish unity'.

While conceding that jobs will be shed as duplicated services are consolidated, the document argues: "Irish unity creates the potential to address these shortcomings in public services, ensuring that we can deliver better outcomes to communities and families as well as benefit from the elimination of duplication. Public sector planning is one of the pieces of work that needs to start now."

The paper also contests that there will be extra taxes to replace the multi-billion subsidy the north receives every year as "increase in economic growth post-unity, the need for any subvention, would disappear".

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