Political news

Arlene Foster claims Sinn Féin can't answer 'basic questions' about a united Ireland

Arlene Foster at an LGBT event in Stormont earlier this year

SINN Féin cannot answer "basic questions" about a united Ireland, DUP leader Arlene Foster has claimed.

Accusing the republican party of "blocking" a return to power-sharing at Stormont, Mrs Foster said despite talk of a border poll people in Northern Ireland simply want a "functioning government today where decisions about public sector pay as well as roads, schools and hospitals are made".

"Sinn Féin is the only party blocking that," she said.

Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said yesterday a border poll should not be held amid uncertainty over Brexit.

"It is not my preferred option or our preferred option that we deal with the issue of Irish unity in a climate that is unsteady or unstable or chaotic, in other words in the context of a crash Brexit or a very hard Brexit," she said.

Ms McDonald also said unionists who ignored the possibility of a united Ireland were burying their heads in the sand.

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson was criticised by party colleague Sammy Wilson after he suggested unionists should prepare for the eventuality they may lose a future border poll.

 Mary Lou McDonald has said no border poll should be held amid uncertainty over Brexit

Mrs Foster has accused Sinn Féin of not being able to answers practical questions about a united Ireland.

"Whilst there have been plenty of republican sound-bites about a border poll, one interview exposed that Sinn Fein has no answers to basic questions about a united Ireland such as what happens (to) our free-at-point-of-need health system," she said. 

"Indeed, within twenty-four hours of that interview, the Sinn Féin leadership is rowing back from their ‘not yet’ position."

Mrs Foster said voters did not want a border poll.

"As tempting as calling Sinn Féin’s bluff might be, the principle of consent is in place and should be respected," she said. 

"Few dispute there is a clear majority in favour of staying within the United Kingdom, but it would be foolish to think that families across the country are itching for a destabilising border poll."

Mrs Foster said her party, which has a 'confidence and supply' agreement with the Tory government, would continue to use its influence at Westminster "to deliver on people’s priorities such as better mental health care, good schools and improving our hospitals".  

"I have no objection to extoling the merits of the Union," she said.

"I have done so and will continue to do so."

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