Referendum on a united Ireland a ‘long-term’ goal, says Adams

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has conceded that a referendum on a united Ireland — as allowed under the Good Friday Agreement — is unlikely to take place under the current Dáil term.

At the weekend, his party will launch its campaign for a border poll allowing voters north and south to decide on breaking the north’s link to Britain.

Under the terms of the 1998 agreement, the secretary of state can call a referendum, but only if it is thought there is a likelihood of majority support for a united Ireland. It can only be called once every seven years.

Mr Adams accepted the governments in Britain and Ireland are very unlikely to agree to this now. He said his party would “politically engage to create a climate to allow that to happen” but it was a “long-term” goal.

He said he wants it done in a “therapeutic way” that will persuade unionists “that their best future is in an Ireland that is united”.

While he wants the poll immediately, he accepted a referendum could take place some time between general elections scheduled in 2016 and 2021.

“What we want now is a debate around this matter,” said Mr Adams.

“We want to be able to influence the battle of ideas that’s going on, to show that there is a vision and there is a way of making that vision a reality.”

Asked if this debate would be better framed by a new leader with less baggage, Mr Adams said: “Somebody might and when the time comes for that, they might have their chance. But that time isn’t now.”

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