Northern Ireland

Oxford Union rejects Irish unity motion

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood addresses the Oxford Union on Thursday
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood addresses the Oxford Union on Thursday

THE Oxford Union has rejected a motion that Ireland is ready for reunification.

The famous debating society at Oxford university heard cases for and against from politicians from Northern Ireland and the Republic.

Speaking on behalf of Irish reunification were SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, his Fianna Fáil counterpart Micheál Martin and Labour TD Joan Burton.

Those speaking against were former UUP leader Mike Nesbitt, former Stormont justice minister Claire Sugden, and High Court judge Richard Humphreys.

When put to a vote during the event on Thursday night, the society rejected the motion.

The Oxford Union tweeted: "The motion fails: This house does not believe Ireland is ready for reunification."

A description of the debate on its website read: "Twenty years on from the Good Friday Agreement, government in Northern Ireland is at a standstill.

"Partisan politics have strengthened, not soothed, sectarian divisions, and a settlement becomes less likely by the day.

"In this context, the United Kingdom's impending departure from the EU has triggered a renewed focus on that question which has shaped an island's history – has the time come for a united Ireland?

"The Oxford Union is proud to host this historic debate between leaders north and south of the border."

After the debate, Mr Eastwood posted online: "Really enjoyed debating Irish unity at the Oxford Union. Great to meet so many Irish students there too."

The Oxford Union has hosted a broad range of high-profile speakers, from former US secretary of state John Kerry to comedian Russell Brand.