Northern Ireland news

Ian Paisley accused of trying to move goal posts on Irish unity poll

Ian Paisley Jr : Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Allan Preston

THE DUP’s Ian Paisley has been criticised for attempts to change the goalposts on any future referendums in the UK.

The North Antrim MP introduced The Referendums (Supermajority) Bill to Parliament on Tuesday.

It would mean any major constitutional change, such as a vote on Irish unity or Scottish independence, would require more than the present requirement of 50 per cent plus one.

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan Programme, Mr Paisley said his bill had the support of his party leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and would bring “stability” to any major changes. He said lessons should be learned from the instability caused since the narrow margin in the 2016 Brexit vote.

“Let’s say that in the future if we’re going to decide our politics by way of referenda, let’s make sure that we have protections and balances that are weighted majorities which show that there is overwhelming consent.”

Mr Paisley said it was no longer possible to "rehash" the Brexit vote, and that his bill would only be about constitutional change within the UK.

Alliance MP and deputy leader Stephen Farry dismissed the plans as a “stunt”.

“At best this is a paper exercise, let me be very clear this will never be debated, never mind voted upon in parliament…this is going absolutely nowhere” he said.

The SDLP MP Claire Hanna also said there was virtually no chance of the bill being debated in parliament.

"This is basically the equivalent of Ian Paisley writing 'Ian was here' on his desk, it's a campaigning device more than anything else."

She added: "It's essentially trolling to get Ian Paisley on the radio and let him sound like he has any interest in stability."

Ms Hanna recalled that the Good Friday Agreement had achieved "a super-duper majority" and the DUP had still tried to dismiss it in 1998.

She said the SDLP wanted to achieve a large majority in any border poll, but said: "The law is very clear, your vote and my vote are equal."

Northern Ireland news