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Fianna Fáil future leadership contender Jim O'Callaghan says get ready for border poll

Jim O'Callaghan said there needed to be preparations for a border poll

ONE of the main contenders to succeed Micheál Martin as leader of Fianna Fáil has urged his party to collaborate with the SDLP in preparing for a border poll.

Dublin Bay South TD Jim O’Callaghan believes there has been a greater focus on the constitutional question since the EU referendum and that its importance is likely to increase over the coming years, with momentum towards Scottish independence feeding into the debate.

His remarks, made in interview with Slugger O’Toole, come less than a week after the taoiseach ruled out a border poll in the next five years.

Mr O’Callaghan, a brother of RTÉ broadcaster Miriam O’Callaghan, also said that he would like to see Fianna Fáil merge with the SDLP and contest elections in the north.

He said Mr Martin was “not shying away” from a referendum on Irish unity, describing his party leader as a “republican”.

“His goal is my goal and he wishes to see the reunification of the two jurisdictions on the island but he has a lot of experience in dealing with the sensitivities of the politics of the issue,” he said.

Read More: Peter Robinson calls think tank to sell merits of union ahead of a border poll

The former Fianna Fáil justice spokesman, who declined a position in the coalition cabinet saying he preferred to remain on the back benches, was non-committal on when a border poll would take place though he welcomed Peter Robinson’s remarks in which he urged unionist to prepare for it.

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen but I do know, as Peter Robinson knows, it is going to happen,” he said.

Mr O’Callaghan said it was “incumbent” on republicans and nationalists to “put forward our vision” of a united Ireland.

“It will be for the secretary of state to decide but we can’t simply wait around,” he said.

“My fear is that a border poll would end up the same way as the Brexit poll, which was chaotic – people just had simplistic poll about ‘get me out of the EU’ and nobody knew what was going to happen.”

The Dublin Bay South TD argued that together Fianna Fáil and the SDLP should put forward a “constitution for what would be a new Ireland”, adding that the pursuit of independence was his party’s “founding principle”.

“Let’s not shy away from it,” he said.

“Each side and various other sides should present their views on the preferable constitutional position – let’s debate it, let’s prepare for it and let’s vote on it and let’s move on from it.”

He likened the partnership between the two parties announced in January last year as a “couple engaged for years” and that he would like to see them merge.

“Fianna Fáil is a republican party – we believe in the unification and independence of Ireland and if we’re serious about that it necessarily means we should be contesting elections in Northern Ireland,” he said.

The Irish News contacted Fianna Fáil and the SDLP regarding Mr O’Callaghan’s remarks but neither made any comment.

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