Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

United Ireland proposal needs to be on the agenda – Murphy

Sinn Féin MLA Conor Murphy has said that the proposal for a referendum on Irish unity needs to be on the agenda of any negotiations between the British and Irish governments and the EU.

The Newry Armagh MLA was responding to comments made by British Secretary of State James Brokenshire on a unity referendum where he told MPs he did not believe that the conditions required to call a border poll have been met.

Mr Brokenshire made the comments last week during his House of Commons debut in his new role.  They came after Taoiseach Enda Kenny raised the prospect of a future vote on Irish unity in the wake of Brexit.

Mr Kenny said EU/UK negotiations should factor in the possibility that a border poll could be held in years to come.

Speaking about the new Secretary of State’s comments, Conor Murphy said Mr Brokenshire “represents no one in Ireland.”

“The Tory party has no mandate here.  In the last election they received only 2554 votes right across the north; every single one of our elected candidates, and several of those who just missed out on election, got more votes than the entire Tory party did right across the north,” he added.

“They are in absolutely no position to be telling people here what can and cannot be on the agenda.

“With the prospect of the north being dragged out of the EU by England, more and more people are open to the idea of exploring new relationships on this island in the context of remaining in the EU.”

Mr Murphy said Sinn Féin has urged the Taoiseach to push ahead with an island-wide dialogue to discuss how the remain vote in the north can be respected.

“The proposal for a referendum on Irish unity needs to be part of that dialogue and on the agenda of any negotiations between the British and Irish governments and the EU.”

Meanwhile, in the first 24 hours of a poll held by the Belfast Telegraph on Thursday, 73% of voters said the time was right for a poll.

And 70% also said they would vote for a united Ireland, in the first day of the online vote.

The head of the EU’s policing agency has also weighed into the discussion saying he does not believe there would be an increase in violence if a vote for a united Ireland was passed.

Rob Wainwright, the director of Europol, said Ireland had “come a long way since the Troubles” and that he was “rather optimistic” reunification would not lead to a return of terrorist activity.

Mr Wainwright warned that Brexit had potential implications for the sharing of intelligence on organised crime but he said he did not have any specific concerns about the prospect of a united Ireland.

“The Ireland that we see today is very different to what we saw all those years ago.

“I hate to think that we would slip back into something like that, and I am rather optimistic that we wouldn’t,” said the Europol director.