Sinn Fein calls for vote on Irish unification referendum after hard Brexit
Sun Feb 3, 2019 04:59PM [Updated: Sun Feb 3, 2019 05:18PM ]
Leader of the Sinn Fein, the second most prominent party on the island of Ireland, has said that UK province of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland should renew their call for unity if Britain fails to avoid a hard border between the two neighbors after leaving the European Union.
Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald told the BBC on Saturday that if a hard border is reinstated between the two Irelands as a result of a disorderly Brexit, the Republican party would seek a referendum on the Irish unity.
“Put simply, if the border in Ireland cannot be mitigated, cannot be managed in the short term, well then you put the question democratically in the hands of the people and allow them to remove the border,” said McDonald.
The comments come amid a controversy surrounding British Prime Minister Theresa May’s Brexit deal with the EU. The deal, which was rejected in the parliament on January 15 with a historic margin, has faced criticism over a clause which allows the EU to maintain Northern Ireland on its rule book if London and Brussels fail to reach a trade mechanism two years after Brexit.
The EU and the Irish government have rejected calls for replacing the backstop with alternative arrangements that could allow the Brexit deal to go through the British parliament. That would mean that Britain could leave the EU on March 29 without a deal and allow a restoration of hard border between the two Irelands three decades after checks and controls were removed as part of a historic deal signed between London and Dublin.
McDonald said a hard border between the two Irelands meant that the Good Friday Agreement, signed in 1998 and implemented a year later, should be “revisited” and that the democratic choice for the people on the two side of the border would be to go referendum on Irish unification.
“The backstop is the bottom line,” she said, adding, “Bear in mind the people of Northern Ireland did not consent to Brexit.”
Fears about a return of “troubles” in Ireland have increased since the start of this year with two notable separatist attacks reported in Northern Ireland.
Police made arrests last month after a major car bomb in Londonderry, which authorities blamed on an offshoot of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
There were two shootings late on Friday in the same city that led to injuries for two men. Police have again blamed the New IRA separatists for the attacks.
The calls for separation of Northern Ireland from the UK come against the backdrop of similar attempts in Scotland to leave the union.
Pro-independence Scots lost a referendum on the issue in 2014 but the movement gained a fresh momentum after the Brexit referendum in June 2016 in which most of the people in the region voted to remain part of the EU.
Political leaders in Scotland have also said they may revive the independence push after Brexit takes full shape.
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