Brexit: Opposition parties at odds on holding a border poll

Opposition parties here are now at odds over whether there should be a border poll after the Brexit vote.

Fianna Fáil leader Michéal Martin said British prime minister David Cameron was “reckless and irresponsible” to hold a Brexit referendum. He said the UK will now remain outside the EU for “a very long time”.

However, he ruled out a border poll which Sinn Féin suggested yesterday morning after Northern Ireland voters backed the campaign to remain within the EU.

Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said a vote on Irish unity is now required. The Northern Secretary can call a referendum if there is clear evidence of a swing in public opinion towards Irish unity.

“We find ourselves now in a position where not only is Ireland partitioned, but we now find ourselves with an Ireland that is at once inside and outside the European Union. I don’t think anyone will argue that is a sustainable position,” she said.

Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers said she did not believe the criteria for a border poll had been met.

Mr Martin said the Good Friday Agreement is the way to work towards better relationships on the island of Ireland.

“The Sinn Féin call is a distraction. Given that we have such instability and uncertainty what’s required now is to focus on the negotiations that are going to take place in relation to Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union and to ensure that we get the best deal possible.”

Mr Martin was critical of David Cameron: “We know from our own referenda, we have learned lessons that one has to prepare over the long term for such an event and I just got the sense that they almost stumbled into the referendum.”

Labour leader Brendan Howlin said he was “extremely disappointed” by the outcome adding “In time I think it will be seen as a tragedy for its people”.

He said: “Our first obligation will be to minimise the negative impact on the people of this island and my party will support the Irish Government’s efforts in that regard.”

Green Party leader Eamon Ryan said the outcome was “a huge blow” but the EU must allow “time for reflection” before Brexit negotiations start.

Stephen Donnelly of the Social Democrats said: “It is imperative that the existing close relationship between the UK and Ireland is maintained.”

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