Northern Ireland news

Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond calls for establishment of Oireachtas committee on Irish unity

Neale Richmond spoke during an Ireland's Future event at Westminster

A FINE Gael TD has called on his own government to establish an Oireachtas committee on Irish unity ahead of a potential border poll.

Neale Richmond was speaking last night during an Ireland's Future event at Westminster.

The Dublin Rathdown representative was joined on the panel by SDLP MP Claire Hanna, Sinn Féin MP John Finucane, Alliance deputy leader Stephen Farry and SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford.

The event in Westminster's Grand Committee Room was chaired by Belfast-born journalist Andrea Catherwood.

In a contribution setting out his vision for Ireland's reunification, Mr Richmond said the Dublin government had a "duty to be as best prepared as possible for a border poll", which he believes could happen over the next decade.

“Brexit has fundamentally changed the tone of debate when it comes to Irish unity and the fact that this British government has chosen to pursue the hardest possible form of Brexit has put in stark context the divisions that exist across these islands," he said.

"It is now very conceivable that a British secretary of state for Northern Ireland could call a border poll on Irish unity within the next decade – it is therefore the Irish government's duty to ensure that we are as best prepared as possible to meet the challenge of such a referendum."

The Fine Gael European Affairs spokesman said the growing potential for a border poll supported the case for the establishment of an all-party special Oireachtas committee to "look at the challenges and opportunities that Irish unity presents".

“Many people across this island, understandably, ask what would a united Ireland look like and sadly many also ask and what would it cost?" he said.

"Now is the time to bring together stakeholders, experts and advocates of all positions to work through these many questions in a parliamentary setting."

Ireland's Future chief executive Gerry Carlile last week said that the result of the May 5 election had made the argument for a border poll more compelling.

"Democracy must be upheld," he told The Irish News. "There is no majority for the union any more."

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