Northern Ireland news

Border poll 'weighted majority' would 'turn democracy on its head' – Michelle O'Neill

Michelle O'Neill said the conversation on the constitutional future of Ireland was growing. Picture by Colm Lenaghan/Pacemaker

THE notion that a weighted majority should be necessary to secure Irish unity in a border poll would "turn democracy on its head", according to Sinn Féin's deputy leader.

Michelle O'Neill described the suggestion as "illogical and a total non-starter".

The Mid-Ulster MLA's remarks, made today in a platform for The Irish News, come just days after Northern Ireland's former chief electoral officer said securing victory for nationalists in a border poll on the basis of a '50 per cent-plus-one' would lead to greater political and social instability.

Pat Bradley, who oversaw the 1998 referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, is the latest figure to caution against securing a united Ireland on the basis of a simple majority.

Last year, taoiseach Leo Varadkar appeared to suggest that the consent of significantly more than half of voters would be required for constitutional change

Former deputy first minister Seamus Mallon has also warned that a slim simple majority would not deliver the “kind of agreed and peaceful Ireland we seek” and could lead to violence.

Ms O'Neill said the conversation on the constitutional future of Ireland was growing and that Brexit had accelerated those discussions.

She said she welcomed an inclusive debate about Ireland's future and that it was discussion which should belong to "all citizens on this island and to the wider Irish diaspora".

"In response to the growing energy of this debate, some opponents of democratic change have suggested that a referendum on the constitutional future of Ireland should feature a weighted majority in favour of maintaining the union," she said.

"This suggestion is illogical and a total non-starter. Increasing the threshold needed for constitutional change would be to turn democracy on its head and would undermine the principles of the Good Friday Agreement."

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