Sinn Fein leader predicts Irish reunification vote in next decade

DUP are ‘punishing the public’ says Sinn Fein leader

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Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has said London could approve a referendum on Irish reunification in the next decade. She argued one of the advantages of Brexit has been a boost in trading relations between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which will in turn open the doors for reunification talks.

Speaking to Spiegel International, she said: “We’re not far off. I believe such a referendum will come within this decade.”

Asked whether Irish reunification could be as expensive as Germany’s reunification, which cost €2trillion, she replied: “Irish reunification will cost a fraction of that. We live on a small, little island. Our border is virtually invisible anyhow.

“If Brexit had a silver lining – and you have to search for it, believe me – it has had the effect of boosting trade between the north and the south and quickening the integration of the Irish economy.

“I believe reunification will make us richer, not poorer.”

Her comments come as Rishi Sunak’s latest Brexit deal received effective endorsement from the House of Commons on Wednesday when a strong majority of MPs voted through regulations to facilitate a key plank of the deal.

But DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has described the Windsor Framework as a “sticking plaster” and said he is looking forward to further negotiation with the UK Government.

The DUP and some Conservative MPs were among 29 to vote against the Stormont brake, while there were 515 votes for.

Sir Jeffrey insisted on Thursday that the Windsor Framework is “insufficient”, and said more work is needed to ensure arrangements “respect Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom and its internal market”.

The DUP is refusing to participate in the Stormont Assembly until its concerns around the post-Brexit settlement are tackled.

Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris met delegations from the five major Stormont parties at Hillsborough Castle on Thursday.

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Speaking after his meeting with Mr Heaton-Harris, Sir Jeffrey said: “I am not interested in sticking plasters, they don’t work and I’m afraid there is in the Windsor Framework an element of the sticking plaster.

“It won’t work, it will not deliver the long-term stability and prosperity that Northern Ireland needs.”

Sir Jeffrey said his party is looking to the Prime Minister and UK Government to “sort this out”.

“No better place than here at Royal Hillsborough to say to the Government we need to sort this out, we need to get the change that is required to deliver stable, sustainable government in Northern Ireland,” he said.

“When the Foreign Secretary comes back from Brussels, when the Prime Minister has the time, we’ll be sitting down with them along with the Secretary of State and we’ll be putting our case.”

However, Mr Heaton-Harris said that the Windsor Framework will be implemented into law.

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“The Windsor Framework is not a sticking plaster, it’s a solution to the problems that were produced by the protocol and it will work,” he told the media.

“And the two sides to those negotiations which have concluded, the UK Government and the European Union, are going to make the framework work.

“So there is nothing more to get out of that conversation. It is done.”

McDonald said it is “time to move on” and for the Stormont Executive to be reformed immediately.

“Really now, there is no further pretext, no further excuse to keep the executive down and to keep the assembly down,” she said.

“While we respect the need for people to have time to reflect, time for clarification, the truth is that matters have been settled between London and Brussels, and the facts are now that political leaders need to step forward, get back to government and do the business.”

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