Fine Gael Senator Neale Richmond has warned those calling for a border poll on a United Ireland to “be careful what they wish for”.
Senator Richmond, the Chairman of the Seanad Brexit Committee, described calls for a border poll as “foolhardy”, adding that the immediate focus must be on re-establishing the institutions.
Speaking at the annual Féile an Phobail festival in Belfast, Senator Richmond said:
“As we saw with the unfolding disaster that was the Brexit vote, prematurely holding a referendum without thoroughly planning for all eventualities, and taking into account all possible consequences, is a serious mistake.
“A premature border poll and continuing related speculation is not a solution to the current problems presented by Brexit. Starting such a conversation at this very delicate time is foolhardy and ignores the very pressing challenges.
“Politics in Northern Ireland is in an extremely fragile place, not helped by one of the biggest constitutional crises facing the UK in peace time since the corn wars.
“The Good Friday Agreement needs to be given a proper opportunity to bed in and establish an element of normality in Northern Ireland. With the Executive still suspended for what is now the sixth time since 1998, the priority should be re-establishing that devolved administration. How can we talk about a possible United Ireland at this stage when parties in the North remain locked out of the Assembly?
Senator Richmond added: “While most of us do want a United Ireland at some stage, with things as charged as they currently are, now is not the time for this discussion. Let’s be frank, the symbolic, and sometimes divisive issues like flags, anthems and parades, pale into comparison with things like the sheer cost of a United Ireland, not to mention issues like health, education, reconciliation and integration.
“Why is Sinn Féin focusing solely on a border poll as a solution to our Brexit woes when it presents more questions than answers?
“All those talking up a premature border poll should be careful what they wish for as they may not get the result or the legacy they look for.”