Majority of MLAs required to trigger border poll, senior UK politician says

ireland
Majority Of Mlas Required To Trigger Border Poll, Senior Uk Politician Says Majority Of Mlas Required To Trigger Border Poll, Senior Uk Politician Says
Sinn Féin activists calling for a border poll, stage a demonstration outside Stormont. Photo: PA
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By James Ward, PA

A Stormont election returning a majority of MLAs in favour of a united Ireland would be required to trigger a border poll, a senior UK politician has said.

The Good Friday Agreement says the holding of a poll on Irish unity lies in the power of the Northern Ireland secretary of state, if it “appears likely” that a majority of voters in the region would support it.

A former UK cabinet minister dismissed the idea that the step could be taken on the back of opinion polls, saying a higher threshold would be required.

The comments came at a discussion on Brexit and Anglo-Irish relations hosted by Public Policy Projects, held under Chatham House rules, which prevent identification of the speakers.

The ex-minister said: “The test is that the secretary of state must have evidence that a majority of people in Northern Ireland want to see a change in constitutional status.

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“Then there is an obligation to call a border poll.

“I believe a secretary of state would look not to an opinion poll, but to an election in Northern Ireland, in which Stormont would return a majority of MLAs who supported the changing constitution status.

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“I think that would be difficult to argue with, and you would probably get a judicial review if a secretary of state then defied an expressed wish at that time.

“I don’t frankly think it’s likely in 10 years.”

The former minister said a border poll in the next decade would have a “destabilising and polarising impact” on Northern Ireland politics, as well as UK-Irish relations.

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