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Border poll would ‘polarise’ Northern Ireland’s communities

People take part in an Irish unity march as they cross the Lifford Bridge, from Donegal, which marks the border between Strabane in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and Lifford in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland (Niall Carson/PA).

Democratic Unionist leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said a border poll would be “very divisive” and polarise communities in Northern Ireland.

Sir Jeffrey claimed that the majority of people in the province want to remain part of the UK.

The DUP leader made the comments at the Good Summit seminar, which looked at the future of Ireland.

Among the speakers were Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald and Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond.

Sir Jeffrey rejected the idea of a border poll, saying the last year has shown there is a “long way” to reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

“It would be very divisive.

“It would polarise the community in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“Right now I don’t think we need to have that.

“I think that the majority of Northern Ireland wants to remain within the UK.

“I think that is evident from all the opinion polls that we’ve had.

“I don’t think there is a majority for change and to be honest, we have many other priorities that we need to deal with.”

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Leader of the DUP, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said the majority of people in Northern Ireland want to remain part of the UK (Liam McBurney/PA).

He added: “I think the last year has shown that we have a long way still to go in building reconciliation and bringing people together in Northern Ireland.

“I think that too should be a priority at this time.

“I don’t think we should push that down the road as I’ve said, I think that we do need to look at ways in which we can build our shared future.

“I believe also that means understanding our shared history, and not being afraid to engage with our shared history.”

He added that a united Ireland would not heal the wounds within Northern Ireland.

As part of the Good Friday Agreement, there is a provision for holding a Northern Ireland border poll under.

The Northern Ireland Act states that it would be held if the majority of those voting would want the reunification of both jurisdictions.

Speaking at the event, Ms McDonald said that now is the time to plan and discuss the end of partition.

“Let’s not to rush. I’m not saying let’s gallop to the polls next week and have the referendum, that clearly would be farcical,” she added.

“But what I am saying is, let’s not lose time now and start planning and discussing the practical bread and butter issues that matter.

“I think we need an Irish National Health Service.

“I think we need a universal service, free at the point of access.

“I also know that will require very considerable planning and infrastructural and a resource base, and we have to have a conversation about how we pay for that.”

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