Brexit chaos could lead to a border poll on a united Ireland within five years, claims Sinn Fein chief Michelle O’Neill
- Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill said need to prepare for border vote
- Ms O’Neill compared Brexit to the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification
- She said major political events can cause slow moving processes to speed up
A vote on whether there should be a united Ireland is likely to take place within the next five years because of Brexit chaos, Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill suggested today.
Ms O’Neill said recent polls showed the need for a potential border vote to be debated and for planning to begin on the preparations for such a ballot.
Sinn Fein have said they want a border poll on a united Ireland to take place in the near future.
But Ms O’Neill said the Brexit process could result in the vote happening sooner rather than later as she compared the current situation to the events which led to German reunification.
Speaking in Dublin, she said the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent reunification of east and west Germany demonstrated that major political events can speed up things which are already in motion.
Her comments are likely to prompt a furious response from Unionist politicians in Northern Ireland who are ardently against a border poll.
She said: ‘Everything is moving in that direction. I believe it was moving there even before Brexit, but clearly Brexit has become a catalyst for it.
‘What is important to note is the German example.
‘I think with the Berlin Wall, Germany was reunited within a year… the fact that events overtook and the country was unified within a year.’
Sinn Fein vice president Michelle O’Neill, pictured in Belfast on September 24, said today that the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ on the issue of a united Ireland
Critics believe the Brexit deal put forward by Boris Johnson, pictured in the House of Commons today, which could see Northern Ireland treated differently to the rest of the UK could fuel calls for a united Ireland
Ms O’Neill said the ‘genie is out of the bottle’ when it comes to the issue of a united Ireland.
‘The prudent thing now is to start planning for it,’ she continued.
‘If the Irish government does not want to fall into the same trap as the British government has in terms of Brexit, then now is the time to plan and have that conversation.’
She said negotiations between the UK, EU and Ireland must take place before any border poll, so the ‘disorder’ caused by Brexit will not happen again.
‘The conversation does not have to be rancorous, it can be done in a very inclusive way,’ she added.
Loyalists in Belfast held a meeting last night to warn Boris Johnson that they ‘will not tolerate an economic united Ireland’ amid a growing backlash over his Brexit deal.
Loyalist spokesman Jamie Bryson said there is ‘immense anger’ within loyalism around the current proposed Brexit agreement.
Asked whether preparations between the Irish and UK government about a border poll on Irish unity could inflame loyalist tensions, Ms O’Neill described the Belfast meeting as a ‘worrying development’.
‘I believe that (meeting) needs to be condemned by political unionism,’ she said.
‘I don’t think it is a tolerable situation to say that the UDA and UVF were in a meeting in Belfast last night discussing how they are going to respond to Brexit – I think the most mature thing to do is for political leaders to be political leaders, for people to plan for the future.
‘The Irish Government must convene that conversation because I believe people who have a British identity will engage in that conversation,’ she said.
Critics believe the Brexit deal put forward by Mr Johnson, which could see Northern Ireland treated differently to the rest of the UK, could fuel calls for a united Ireland.