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DUP leader displays deep anxiety about prospect of Irish unity referendum

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
By all accounts Brexit has rejuvenated the Irish unity movement

The leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Northern Ireland’s First Minister, Arlene Foster, has expressed deep concern about the prospect of a border poll or an Irish Unity referendum.

Foster, who has led the staunchly pro-British DUP since 2015, described a concerted push for a united Ireland as “absolutely reckless”.

Speaking to Sky News on Sunday (January 24), Foster said a border poll would be “divisive” and distract from the “fight” against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Foster’s deep anxiety comes in the wake of opinion polling showing growing support for the idea of a united Ireland.

A poll commissioned by the Sunday Times in Northern Ireland found that 51 percent of people would like to see a referendum on Irish unity in the next five years.

The polling, which was conducted by Lucidtalk, found that 42 percent would vote for a united Ireland tomorrow, while 47 percent favor maintaining the union with Britain and 11 percent are undecided.

However, among the under 45 age group, 47 percent favor Irish unity while only 46 percent want to remain part of the UK.

Furthermore, 48 percent of respondents said they believed a united Ireland would be a reality within 10 years. Only 44 percent of respondents disagreed with that proposition.

The polling was carried out from January 15-22 and involved 2,392 people living in all six counties of Northern Ireland.

Reacting to both the polls and Foster’s defensive posture, the Vice President of Sinn Féin, Michelle O'Neill, said there is now an “unstoppable conversation under way” on the issue of Irish unity.

More importantly, O'Neill, who is also Northern Ireland’s deputy First Minister, has called on the Irish government to “step up preparations” for an Irish unity referendum.

Meanwhile, the leader of another Irish nationalist group, the Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP), said the findings of the latest opinion poll places a “solemn obligation” on those striving for a united Ireland to “engage with every community, sector and generation”.

Colum Eastwood, who is also an MP for the Foyle constituency, added: “The United Kingdom may be coming to an end but we are all called to build a new future together”.





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