NI border poll a ‘bad idea’, warns Varadkar

VaradkarA border poll in Northern Ireland would be “divisive” and “a bad idea”, Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar has said.

On Thursday, former first minister Peter Robinson said any future border poll on Northern Ireland’s future in the UK can not be conducted on the basis of a simple majority.

He said the idea of a “majority of one” would lead to chaos.

Mr. Varadkar said “a simple majority is enough”, but questioned whether that would be a “good thing”.

The taoiseach made his comment ahead of becoming the first Irish prime minister to visit the headquarters of the Orange Order in Belfast.

“I think a border poll would be defeated and very divisive,” said Mr. Varadkar.

“We should be respecting the primacy of the Good Friday Agreement and, at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, is power-sharing within Northern Ireland, ever-increasing cooperation within the north and south and peace in Britain and Ireland.”

Mr. Varadkar said that even though the Good Friday Agreement provides for a border poll to be carried by a majority of one, the time or the conditions were not right.

“I think the focus should be on getting the institutions up and running again, rather than focusing on a border poll.”

Efforts to restore power sharing in Northern Ireland have so far failed, after the Executive collapsed 17 months ago.

‘Focus on power-sharing’
Talks to get the Northern Ireland Assembly up and running failed in February with both Sinn Féin and the DUP blaming each other for an inability to strike a deal.

It comes as a survey conducted for the BBC suggested that the prospect of Brexit may be having a significant impact on how some people in Northern Ireland regard their future.

More than a quarter (28%) said the UK’s decision to leave the EU has made them more likely to vote for a united Ireland.

Speaking during a lecture at Queen’s University in Belfast, Mr. Robinson shared Mr. Varadkar’s views that the focus must be on restoring a power-sharing government in Northern Ireland.

He was appointed an honorary professor in peace studies in May.

Mr. Robinson served as the first minister of Northern Ireland from 2008 until he retired in January 2016.

His inaugural lecture delivered on Thursday evening was entitled “Negotiating the Way Forward: Restoring Government in Northern Ireland”.

A number of academics have protested at his appointment to the non paid, part-time position, attached to the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice.

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