NORTHERN Ireland shadow Secretary of State Peter Kyle’s comments that he would be prepared to call a referendum on Irish unity if certain conditions were met has been welcomed by Sinn Féin.
Last weekend, Mr Kyle said if his party wins the next UK General Election and takes power and, if events show support for a united Ireland vote is obvious, he would act according to the Good Friday Agreement and ‘organise a border poll’.
The remarks alarmed unionists across Northern Ireland, but Sinn Féin’s Chris McCaffrey was buoyed by his statement.
“This is obviously recognition from Peter Kyle that the current constitutional position is unsustainable,” the local councillor said.
“The ‘Six Counties’ were partitioned and gerrymandered with an inbuilt unionist majority and they were designed to forever hold this unionist majority, and now after just over 100 years of this failed project, this is no longer the case.
“It was an unviable project from the beginning. Irish unity is coming, people are talking about this from all parts of societies.”
Mr Kyle said Sinn Féin’s emergence as the biggest party in Northern Ireland and last week’s census results, which showed that Catholics now outnumber Protestants for the first time, was not enough as yet, but that may change as time goes on.
“We’re not even in that circumstance yet, so when we move towards the point where those circumstances set out in the Good Friday agreement start to emerge and it becomes a priority for the people of Northern Ireland, I will act,” Mr Kyle told the BBC’s Sunday Politics show at his party’s conference.
“If the circumstances emerge as set out in the Good Friday agreement, I as secretary of state, would not play games. I would call the border poll.
“All I am saying is I am not going to be a barrier if the circumstances emerge.”
Ulster Unionist Party leader Doug Beattie was among the dissenting voices, saying the comments were “unhelpful and ill-timed” and believed Mr Kyle’s remarks were a “distraction” from the cost-of-living crisis and dealing with the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Councillor McCaffrey remained positive, however.
“We would of course have to wait to see if he [Mr Kyle] even gets into the post to be able to do this, but I believe that it is another welcome step forward,” he said.
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition