Political news

Alliance says border poll would be 'reckless'

Naomi Long said a border poll would be 'reckless'. Picture by Hugh Russell

ALLIANCE leader Naomi Long believes a referendum on Irish unity during the next five years would be "reckless".

Speaking at the launch of her Westminster election manifesto in east Belfast, where she is seeking to regain the seat she lost to the DUP two years ago, Mrs Long said current circumstances mean a border poll would be destabilising.

In recent days, both Sinn Féin and the SDLP have advocated a vote on unification before 2022.

Mrs Long said she believed the conditions for calling a referendum as set out in the Good Friday Agreement had not been met.

"I think for the good of the people of Northern Ireland it would be reckless of us to engage in further destabilisation by having a border poll," she added.

As well as East Belfast, Alliance is targeting South Belfast in next week's election, where one-time Ulster Unionist-Conservative candidate Paula Bradshaw is the party's candidate.

Mrs Long claimed there is a "serious chance" of Alliance victories in both constituencies.

She said such a result would not only make history for her party but deliver a much-needed shake-up of the "same old, same old" politics of the past.

"In this election, Northern Ireland has an historic opportunity to change direction for the first time in history."

Alliance's 'Change Direction' manifesto focuses on the implications of Brexit and the party's hope of securing a "special deal for Northern Ireland" which would include access to both the single market and customs union.

It also supports a second UK-wide referendum before Brexit is finalised.

If devolution is restored, Alliance wants to end the "abuse" of the assembly's petition of concern veto and have a requirement that all executive policies are "shared-future proofed" to tackle division.

The manifesto calls for greater transparency of party funding and the introduction of proportional representation in Westminster elections.

Alliance also supports health service reforms and same-sex marriage rights and opposes any repeal of the Human Rights Act.

"This manifesto is our programme to change the direction of our society," Mrs Long said.

"It is an approach to politics which is progressive, positive and pro-European, rather than allowing division and deadlock to rule the day."

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