Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Empey has welcomed confirmation from the Government that it has no plans to hold a border poll.
Speaking following receipt of a written answer from Baroness Randerson in response to a Parliamentary question which he tabled, Lord Empey said:
“I asked the Government what criteria they will apply in considering whether a referendum on future constitutional arrangements in Northern Ireland is required.”
The Government stated that the provisions for calling a poll on the status of Northern Ireland are set out in the Belfast Agreement and the Northern Ireland Act 1998 and that “the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland will of course listen to the Northern Ireland parties on a border poll.”
I very much welcome the Government’s recognition of the reality of the situation that “given the state of opinion in Northern Ireland, clearly expressed in election results and opinion polls, the Government has no plans to hold a referendum.”
As I stated previously, I have no doubt that a very strong pro-Union majority would emerge from any Border poll but I am concerned that any signal from Government that a poll was under consideration would almost inevitably set the meter running and give encouragement to Sinn Fein to plunge Northern Ireland into border poll mode.
Northern Ireland’s constitutional position was settled by the Belfast Agreement and the Union is secure for as long as the unionist community turns out to vote for unionist candidates and parties.
Politics here should focus on the economy, the health service and education. We should devote our energies to ensuring that Northern Ireland delivers for all our people and we will not do this if we are distracted by Sinn Fein’s fantasy of a united Ireland.”