Sammy Wilson hits out as Peter Robinson warns north should prepare for united Ireland
A DUP MP has rounded on former party leader Peter Robinson over his remarks about how the north should prepare for a united Ireland.
The former First Minister expressed his views on Friday at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, in which he said he didn't believe Northern Ireland wanted to leave the UK - but that there was no reason it shouldn't prepare for the eventuality.
"I don't expect my own house to burn down but I still insure it because it could happen," he said in response to a question from the audience.
But Mr Wilson described the controversial comments as "demoralising" and said they were akin to "inviting arsonists in to burn your house".
"It's not going to happen, so why should I prepare for it,” the East Antrim MP told the News Letter last night.
"I don’t prepare for a journey to the Moon because I'm never going to get on Richard Branson's space rocket and fly to the Moon. So why would I prepare for a united Ireland when it’s not going to happen."
- Peter Robinson: From beret-wearing agitator to the corridors of power
Mr Robinson's views have sparked anger across unionism when he further by saying "every democrat" would have to accept the results of a border poll in the event of Northern Ireland seeking to join the Republic.
Former Ulster unionist party leader Lord Empey accused him of becoming a "Sinn Féin echo chamber".
But republicans said Mr Robinson's stance highlighted the fears created by Brexit.
"The catastrophic consequences of a hard Brexit on our economy, our rights and our future...are undoubtedly adding to the fears of many unionists as well as nationalists," Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy said.
"Political developments and demographic trends are reshaping the political landscape. This cannot be ignored as census results and opinion polls indicate increasing interest in and a growing momentum toward Irish unity."
Mr Robinson added the unionist community would want some 'protections' following the results of a border poll on unification.
"As soon as that decision is taken every democrat will have to accept that decision," he said.
He added: "I don't believe Northern Ireland will want to leave the United Kingdom, but if it does happen we would be in a terrible fix because we would be in the same situation as leaving the EU where nothing was negotiated or decided about what was going to happen after."
Alliance party deputy leader Stephen Farry told The Irish News he accepted that Brexit posed a "massive threat" to the "cohesion of Northern Ireland".
"While Alliance respects everyone's constitutional aspiration, the priority today must be to agree a special deal for Northern Ireland to mitigate the risks from Brexit and to achieve the maximum cross-community support for such a pragmatic way forward."
In June, Mr Robinson stated in his first lecture as a professor in peace studies at Queen's University that it was time border polls on a united Ireland should be held at fixed dates - to avoid destabilising Northern Ireland politics.
TUV leader Jim Allister branded the latest comments as "crass" and said that no unionist should do anything to encourage those campaigning for a border poll.