DUP 'may call Sinn Féin's bluff' by backing referendum demand

Arlene Foster

The North’s largest unionist party may support a poll on the region’s constitutional future, a senior member has indicated.

Holding the vote would demonstrate the strength of support for the Union and validate the status quo, Democratic Unionist minister Arlene Foster said.

Sinn Féin has recently launched a renewed campaign calling for a referendum on the national question during the next Stormont Assembly term.

Such an exercise is allowed for under the terms of the Good Friday peace agreement.

Mrs Foster said she had held discussions with party colleagues, including leader and Stormont First Minister Peter Robinson, about calling Sinn Féin’s bluff by supporting its call.

The DUP Economy Minister claimed a poll would expose the republican party’s “fantasy politics”.

“You know in conversation yesterday with some senior members of my party, including the First Minister Peter Robinson, we did take a view actually that said: ’Right, let’s have this border poll’.”

She added: “Then the fantasy politics become real politics.”

The Fermanagh and South Tyrone Assembly member said any vote would show a clear majority in favour of retaining the Union.

She accused Sinn Féin of trying to destabilise the situation in the North and claimed the result of a poll would provide stability.

“If we have a border poll today then Sinn Féin is going to get an answer,” she told Radio Ulster.

“Be careful what you wish for is what I say to Sinn Féin because if a border poll happens today there will be a very, very clear majority of people in Northern Ireland which will say they want to remain in the United Kingdom.”

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, the Secretary of State can order a poll if he or she believes there is evidence indicating support for a constitutional change.

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