DUP letter urges unionists to prepare for border poll

Arlene Foster said the criteria for a border poll had not been met but a DUP MLA is telling constituents it might happen. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire

HOURS after Arlene Foster claimed there was no possibility of a border poll, a letter emerged from one of her colleagues warning unionists that they may not be able to vote to keep Northern Ireland in the UK.

North Down MLA Alex Easton has written to constituents urging them to get on the electoral register in case there is a vote on Irish unity.

It is understood the DUP representative distributes similar letters, written on Northern Ireland Assembly headed paper, on an annual basis.

The correspondence warns the recipient that "in the light of recent election results, it's even more important you get registered" to vote.

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"If for instance, there was ever a referendum called on a border poll on a United Ireland, and you are not on the electoral register, you would NOT be able to vote to save our UNION with the rest of the UK," Mr Easton writes.

The letter is undated but it emerged on social media just hours after his party leader sought to play down the prospects of a unity referendum, after it was reported that three British cabinet ministers had expressed concern that crashing out of the EU could lead to a border poll.

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Arlene Foster dismissed Friday's reports as "project fear" and said the criteria for calling a referendum had not been met.

DUP MLA Alex Easton's letter to constituents not on the electoral register

In a statement issued by the DUP last night, Mr Easton said he regularly encouraged people to register to vote, noting that many working class loyalist communities have the lowest levels of registration.

"Republican talk of a border poll is a good reminder of the need to register to actually make their voice heard," he said.

"I don’t envisage a border poll in my political lifetime but it is always best to be prepared."

Sinn Féin MLA Sinéad Ennis said all parties should encourage voter registration but said "this should be done within the rules" -a reference to the use of official assembly notepaper.

"This letter seems to be a clear demonstration that the DUP, despite the protests of its leader and others, believe a referendum on Irish unity will take place in the near future," she said.

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