The Prime Minister reportedly told Jacob Rees-Mogg that she lacks confidence in winning a possible unity vote
PRIME MINISTER Theresa May fears that British unionism might be defeated in a referendum on Irish unification, according to reports.
Sources quoted in the Times newspaper said that May expressed her doubts during an exchange with Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg, who argued: “If there was a border poll, I have no doubt we would win, as the UK did in Scotland.”
Reportedly, May responded: “I would not be [as] confident as you. That’s not a risk I’m prepared to take. We cannot be confident on the politics of that situation, on how it plays out.”
The revelations have so far not been disputed by the UK Government, and have been seized upon by Sinn Féin, which has previously argued that the imposition of Brexit upon Northern Ireland despite its vote to Remain might trigger such a vote.
Sinn Féin now argue that May’s comments are an admission that the threshold set out under the Good Friday Agreement for a border poll have now been met.
Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill insisted that May had “no right” to deny the people of Ireland a democratic decision on the matter of unification.
“Theresa May has no right to deny democratic entitlements to the people of Ireland, North and South.” Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O’Neill
O’Neill said: “If these reports are accurate, Theresa May is conceding that the Good Friday Agreement threshold for triggering a Unity poll has been met but that she isn’t prepared to allow the people of Ireland, North and South, to exercise their democratic right.
“That is an appalling display of contempt for the democratic rights of Irish citizens. It is also a fundamental breach of the Good Friday Agreement which clearly provides for a referendum. Theresa May has no right to deny democratic entitlements to the people of Ireland, North and South.
“Sinn Féin has raised the need for a Unity referendum with the British Government on numerous occasions over recent years, particularly in the wake of the Brexit vote.
“On each occasion they have stated that they do not believe the threshold has been met but have repeatedly refused to clarify what criteria they use to reach this conclusion.
“The Good Friday Agreement and the subsequent legislation states that a poll shall be held ‘if at any time it appears likely’ to the British Secretary of State that a majority in the North would vote to form part of a united Ireland.”
O’Neill continued: “There is nothing in that legislation that prevents a referendum from taking place at any stage. However, even if you accept the British Government’s interpretation of the threshold, then Theresa May’s comments are an admission that she believes the bar has now been reached.
“However, rather than act on that by honouring her government’s commitments and allowing people to exercise their democratic rights, she has also indicated that she intends to actively prevent that from happening.
“That is entirely unacceptable. It is an affront to the democratic rights of our people and the British Government must immediately clarify their position regarding their commitments to a Unity referendum in line with their legislative and Good Friday Agreement commitments.”
“Democracy and the political process in the north are being held hostage to political divisions within the British Tory party and its ongoing toxic political alliance with the DUP.” Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney
Sinn Féin National Chairperson Declan Kearney MLA added that political progress in Northern Ireland is being stalled due to political divisions with the Conservative Party, as well as its partnership with the Democratic Unionist Party.
Kearney commented: "The comments attributed to Theresa May regarding her opposition to convening a unity referendum is the latest evidence that democracy and the political process in the north are being held hostage to political divisions within the British Tory party and its ongoing toxic political alliance with the DUP.
"These revelations represent a further attempt at subversion of the Good Friday Agreement, which was endorsed in referenda by the people of Ireland.
"This latest example of British government duplicity is an affront to the legitimate aspiration of republicans and nationalists to a united Ireland.
"It remains the Northern Ireland Secretary’s view that a majority of people in Northern Ireland continue to support the current political settlement.” Spokesperson for Theresa May
"The Irish government needs to challenge the Tories' consistent recklessness towards the north. The pro-unionist, partisan approach of this British government is now a major obstacle to making political progress.
"This situation demonstrates once again the urgency of establishing the British & Irish Inter-Governmental Conference, to bring forward a new combined Irish/British partnership for provide political oversight in the north, until proper power sharing and rights-based institutions can be established.”
DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson commented that the comments attributed to Theresa May are “based on speculation” and that the Union is “clearly best for everyone living, working or raising a family in Northern Ireland”.
Donaldson went on to say that a border poll would be “divisive and not helpful in building a shared society”.
Responding to the Times report, a spokesperson for Theresa May told press: “The Government steadfastly supports the Belfast agreement.
"It remains the Northern Ireland Secretary’s view that a majority of people in Northern Ireland continue to support the current political settlement, and that the circumstances requiring a border poll are not satisfied.”
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