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

The former UK minister said he does not believe a poll on Irish unity would be triggered on the basis of opinion polls.
Majority of MLAs required to trigger border poll, senior UK politician says

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.

“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.

“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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