Northern Ireland news

Arlene Foster describes continued debate about united Ireland as 'feature of narrow nationalism'

The survey found that people in the north would vote to remain in the UK if a referendum was called in the present day

FIRST minister Arlene Foster has described the continued debate about a united Ireland as "a feature of narrow nationalism".

The comments by the DUP leader come after a new poll suggested a majority of people on both sides of the border believe Northern Ireland will have left the UK within 25 years.

The survey found that people in the north would vote to remain in the UK if a referendum was called today.

Of those surveyed in Northern Ireland, 49 per cent said if there was a border poll today they would vote to remain in the UK, while 43 per cent would support a united Ireland.

Most respondents also said they thought the north would still be part of the UK in 10 years time, but not in 25 years.

The LucidTalk and Ireland Thinks poll was conducted for BBC NI's Spotlight programme.

But Mrs Foster dismissed suggestions there could be an imminent vote for Irish unity.

"This whole thing that a united Ireland is just around the corner, I have heard that all my adult life," she told the BBC.

"This is a feature of narrow nationalism, that they use this sort of inevitability argument that we are going to move towards a united Ireland.

"That really frustrates me - that over this past while we have spent so much time and I have listened to so much debate over a united Ireland...but yet there is no balanced debate of where we are in a global United Kingdom moving forward."

The poll also asked people for their views on the contentious Northern Ireland Protocol that governs post-Brexit trading arrangements between the region and the rest of the UK.

In Northern Ireland, opinion was divided, with 48 per cent wanting it scrapped and 46 per cent thinking it should be retained.

In the Republic, 74 per cent said the Protocol should be retained, with 10 per cent saying it should be scrapped.

However, people in Northern Ireland were also asked whether their MLAs should vote for the region to remain in the 'single market' when they decided on the Protocol's future in three years.

Some 56 per cent said Northern Ireland should remain in the 'single market' while 38 per cent said it should not.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin told Spotlight that the protocol was not tearing the UK apart, while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was working to "sandpaper" away what he described as the "ludicrous barriers" to trade across the Irish Sea.

But Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald last night said: "Partition failed us all. The future beckons. Change is coming.

"It's time to prepare and plan, to grasp the historic opportunity."

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