Northern Ireland news

Mary Lou McDonald: Border poll should not be held while Brexit uncertainty remains

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald during an interview at the party's headquarters in Belfast. Picture by Liam McBurney/PA Wire
David Young and John Manley

A poll on Irish unity should not be held while uncertainty around Brexit remains, Mary Lou McDonald has said.

The Sinn Féin leader said she disagreed with those who argued that a hard or chaotic Brexit should be the trigger for a referendum.

"The obvious thing would be to say 'well have the border poll and remove the border, if the border is the problem, simply take it away' and there is a certain logic to that," she said.

"I am very, very conscious that you can't come at this issue in that simplistic way.

"It's very important when we come to addressing the issue of partition we do it in the best possible climate and we do it in a way that maximises consent.

"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."


In an interview with the Press Association, Mrs McDonald also said unionists who failed to countenance the possibility of a united Ireland were burying their heads in the sand.

She was reacting to the fall-out from remarks by former DUP leader Peter Robinson, who said unionists should prepare for what would happen if they were to lose a future border poll.

Former DUP leader Peter Robinson

His party colleague Sammy Wilson was among unionists who criticised the former first minister's comments.

Mrs McDonald said it was "common sense" to look at possible constitutional changes, even if you did not support them.

Reflecting on what accommodations might be made for unionists in a united Ireland, the Sinn Féin president also indicated she would be prepared to accept a different flag and national anthem.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar also said yesterday that talking about a border poll at a time of huge uncertainty in Northern Ireland "wouldn't be helpful".

Meanwhile, in an interview with The Irish News, Secretary of State Karen Bradley echoed a strong commitment to the union expressed by prime minister Theresa May in Belfast this month and indicated she would maintain an approach of minimal interference in devolved affairs.

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