Siobhan Fenton

Theresa May is right to be troubled about the prospect of Irish reunification

Amidst the apparent chaos in the days after the Brexit vote, one important story largely slipped under the radar. Now, the demand issued by Sinn Féin for a border poll on reunification of Ireland is resurfacing. Admittedly, back in June, it was difficult to know how much attention to pay to such a demand. Irish reunification is, after all, the entire purpose of the Irish Republican party. However, in the months since the referendum, the peripheral possibility of Irish reunification is starting to move centre stage. And the old platitude from Sinn Féin is morphing into a growing and credible movement on both sides of the Irish border.

But it’s not only Sinn Féin who are pushing for Irish reunification in the wake of Brexit. Other mainstream parties, including those in the Republic, are now seriously considering it. Fianna Fail, one of the South’s largest parties, is to release a White Paper on the matter. Similarly, Fine Gael leader and Prime Minister Enda Kenny has issued calls to allow easy access back into the EU for Northern Ireland if it reunites with the South. Meanwhile, a poll in October indicated that 65 per cent of people living in the Republic of Ireland now say they wish to see a United Ireland – one of the highest levels this decade. And, of course, the Northern Ireland Assembly elections held earlier this month led to unionists losing their majority for the first time after Irish reunification’s biggest advocates, Sinn Féin, secured their best ever electoral performance.

While much of the focus has been on whether Scotland will leave the UK due to Brexit, serious consideration must now be given to whether Northern Ireland could feasibly do the same. Theresa May did just that this week when she said:

‘We have a preference that Northern Ireland should remain part of the United Kingdom, and we will never be neutral in expressing our support for that.

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