Foster: we 'may call Sinn Fein's bluff' on Border poll
Fermanagh and South Tyrone MLA and Enterprise Minister, Arlene Foster, hinted for the first time this week that unionists might agree to a border poll.
Sinn Fein President, Gerry Adams had called on a poll during the next political term in the Northern Ireland Assembly and the Republic's Dail, as part of their strategy for a United Ireland,
Without actually backing the idea, Arlene Foster said in reply to Sinn Fein's Mitchel McLaughlin, "I'm saying to Mitchel McLaughlin and I'm saying to him clearly, we may just call your bluff on this one Mitchel and be very careful what you wish for."
She said that recent calls by Sinn Fein to conduct a border poll were simply an attempt by the Republican leadership to keep supporters on board, despite the political reality that a united Ireland is as far away as ever.
The DUP were said to be discussing the matter but had not come to any conclusion on it.
Sinn Fein Assembly member for Fermanagh-south Tyrone, Sean Lynch
says his party welcomes Arlene Fosters comments on a Border Poll.
Said Mr Lynch: "Sinn Fein only launched our campaign last Saturday 'uniting Ireland'. The Good Friday Agreement commits the British Government to hold a border poll and London has undertaken to legislate for a united Ireland, if the majority of those voting express a wish that the North should cease to be part of the British Union."
"The Agreement also guarantees in the event of a united Ireland that the rights of those who define themselves as British will not be affected. Sinn Fein believes with a changing political and demographic landscape it is time that we all debate and start the discussion about the type of Ireland we can all agree with," he said.
"Lets begin the preparations, Let us get into the discussion, let us do the sums around the economic advantages. Can we afford back to back systems on this small island," asked Mr Lynch.
The last such poll or referendum on the border issue took place 40 years ago in 1973 known as the United Kingdom Sovereignty Referendum with two questions put to voters; whether they thought Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom or whether they wanted Northern Ireland to be joined with the Republic of Ireland outside the United Kingdom.
The result was 98.9 per cent in favour of staying within the UK with a 58% turnout but with a boycott Nationalists.
This week, Arlene Foster said: "Recent calls by Sinn Fein to hold a referendum on the border issue is nothing more than optics politics by Sinn Fein for the benefit of their own supporters, to fool them into thinking a United Ireland is on the agenda.
"There is no evidence at all to show that there is an appetite for a United Ireland. In fact, it is now widely accepted that the constitutional position of Northern Ireland is settled. Recent polling shows a growing number across the Roman Catholic community who favour Northern Ireland remaining as an integral part of the United Kingdom. The increasingly peripheral figure of Gerry Adams might still fantasise about a united Ireland, but support for his cause is dwindling.
"What we need from Sinn Fein is a degree of political maturity, and the political leadership to show their own people the reality that we now face in Northern Ireland. Sinn Fein exercise British rule at Stormont on a daily basis - that is the reality - and to quell discontent within Republicanism at the position they find themselves they engage in these petty, meaningless campaigns, full in the knowledge that they have no prospect of success.
"As politicians we face much more pressing matters at this time and really it is incumbent on all political leaders to deal with those issues that really matter to people, rather than waste time on fantasy politics with no end product. It really is time for Sinn Fein to grow up."
The idea had cold water poured onto it by the Secretary of State, Theresa Villiers, who indicated that the Government had no plans at present to call such a poll.