As the debate continues over the potential implications of Brexit in the Border region, a former IRA volunteer and hunger striker has told a meeting of republicans in Donagh that there is now an “expectation” that a United Ireland could happen within 30 years.

Tommy McKearney who in 1977 was charged with killing Ulster Defence Regiment member and postman Stanley Adams as he delivered post in Pomeroy was one of the key speakers at the meeting last Thursday. On the agenda was a Border poll, a referendum on Irish unity and the biggest talking point in decades, Brexit.

Mr. McKearney told the ‘Road to Referendum’ debate that he has long called for “an end to partition and political reunification”.

And he said Irish unity has always been “an aspiration among republicans and nationalists” and added that there is now “an expectation of same”.

“This has come about for a number of reasons,” Mr. McKearney told the 70 strong crowd.

“The failure of political institutions, the Northern Ireland economy now peripheral within that of the UK, and the fall out from Brexit and changing demographics,” he said.

The public meeting organised by the ‘Yes for Unity’ Republican Socialist campaign saw Mr. McKearney joined by Sinn Fein Councillor Sheamus Greene, Ciarán Cunningham representing Irish Republican Socialist Party, and Barry Murray from the 1916 Societies. Fermanagh man and former Irish Republican Socialist Party prisoner Tarlach Mac Dónaill chaired the event.

Mr. McKearney, who now lives in Monaghan with his wife, Patricia, told the meeting that he is in favour of a Border poll.

“In light of what is now becoming increasingly like an inevitability within the next two or three decades at most, I now would argue in favour of a referendum or Border poll.

“In contrast to those who say that this would destabilise or create fear within the Unionist community, my argument is that this would generate the necessary and indeed essential discussion in order to plan and prepare,” he said.

Mr. McKearney said it is vital “that we lay the groundwork for a reasoned process of negotiation that allows us to avoid the unthinkable alternative”.

“I said that while it is widely acknowledged and for understandable reasons that Unionism is reluctant to discuss the possibility of a united Ireland, that there is also a reluctance within the southern Irish establishment to discuss this issue.

“Calling for a referendum and advocating Irish unity, would prevent the issue being avoided until it reached crisis point,” he said.

It is also important, explained Mr. McKearney, that “those among us favouring an all Ireland republic outline in some detail the nature of such a state in order to demonstrate that it will be a secular and democratic entity with an emphasis on the prosperity and well being of working people”.

Members of the audience asked for joint polls to be held on both sides of the Border to replicate the 1918 election during which 80 per cent voted for Irish unity, to learn from the Scottish referendum and to give 16 year olds the opportunity to vote in such a referendum.

According to a Republican who was at the meeting but did not wish to be named the meeting “asked for an agenda to convince young unionists that the union had brought no value in terms of rights and economic value”.

“A Border poll is the only show in town,” the source told this newspaper.

“In light of what is now becoming increasingly like an inevitability within the next two or three decades at most, I now would argue in favour of a referendum or Border poll