SINN FÉIN leader Mary Lou McDonald has said it is only a matter of time before there is a referendum on a united Ireland.
Speaking at the National Hunger Strike Commemoration in Castlewellan, Co. Down today, Ms McDonald claimed that the ramifications of Brexit has make the prospect of a united Ireland more appealing to unionists.
The TD for Dublin Central urged the Irish Government to lead the dialogue on the issue, saying it must involve unionist leaders.
“A referendum on a United Ireland is provided for in the Good Friday Agreement,” said McDonald in her keynote speech in Castlewellan.
“The need for a referendum to end partition is writ large.
“The time for a Unity Referendum is drawing near.
“It is not a question of if a unity referendum will happen but a question of when.
"So too is the urgent need for dialogue to manage the change that is coming.
“That dialogue must involve unionist political leaders.
“Political leaders must begin practical preparations for a new, inclusive Ireland beyond partition.
"The Irish government in particular has a responsibility to lead an informed, reasoned and respectful public dialogue on this issue.
“We are entering a defining period in Irish political history. Change is coming and it must be managed, sensitively and imaginatively.
“A process of national reconciliation must be central to any genuine effort to unite the people of this island.”
Ms McDonald added that a united Ireland must accommodate British identity.
“As Britain turns away from Europe, the appeal of being part of a new and outward-looking Ireland will, I believe, prove ever more attractive to some within the unionist community,” she said.
“British identity can and must be accommodated in a united Ireland and I believe nationalist Ireland is open to constitutional and political safeguards to ensure this.”
A YouGov poll for the BBC in June found that 42.1 per cent of people in Northern Ireland would vote for a united Ireland, while 45 per cent would opt to remain part of the United Kingdom.
Those undecided numbered 12.7 per cent.