Long: Border poll not needed at this time

Alliance Deputy Leader Naomi Long has said any border poll must only happen when the clear conditions set out in the Good Friday Agreement have been met, after a newspaper suggested public opinion in Northern Ireland wanted one.

East Belfast MP Mrs Long speaking after the Belfast Telegraph survey, which came in the wake of the Scottish independence referendum, which showed a majority of the public in favour of a border poll.

She said: “Whilst the poll showed 56.2 per cent of would back a border poll, 59.8 per cent would reject Irish unification. Only 7.7 per cent of those polled would back a yes vote, while 32.5 per cent stated they would like to see the border removed in 20 years. This is clearly well short of the conditions set out in the Good Friday Agreement of requiring there to be a prospect of change before a poll is taken.

“This survey clearly shows that a large majority of people in Northern Ireland support the constitutional status quo to remain. To have the expense and disturbance caused by a border poll only to have that confirmed formally would be a distraction from more important issues which need urgently addressed.

“I believe this outcome was heavily influenced by the Scottish vote, which was designed to put the question of Scottish independence to rest one way or the other for a generation. However, given the mechanism in the Good Friday Agreement, such a move would not only further polarise politics at this time when crucial issues such as welfare reform, education and health should be taking priority, but also, far from settling the question, could automatically trigger similar polls every seven years, completely distracting from real politics and the job of reconciliation in the longer term.

“We run the risk of being deflected from the challenges of reconciliation and good governance to concentrate on politics focused entirely on such divisions, deepening them instead of removing them.”

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