Taoiseach Micheál Martin not in favour of 'divisive' Irish unity referendum
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Taoiseach Micheál Martin not in favour of 'divisive' Irish unity referendum

AN TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has dismissed Sinn Féin's calls for a referendum on Irish unity as 'divisive'.

Speaking in the Dáil on Tuesday. 7 July, Sinn Féin president and leader of the opposition Mary Lou McDonald stated that "in building for the future, it should be understood that Irish unity is the very best plan for this island and for our people".

Referencing Brexit and the Covid-19 emergency, Deputy McDonald said the situations have "reshaped how people think and talk about reunification".

"Both of these crises have shown very dramatically the danger and jeopardy of the border on our island," she continued.

Suggesting that the best way for the Irish economy to recover and grow was through an All-Ireland approach, she said it was "disappointing" that Irish unity did not feature on the new Programme for Government and asked the Taoiseach if the government would initiate the process for a referendum during its lifetime.

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Brexit and the coronavirus crisis has exposed the dangers of partition - Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, however, said Ms McDonald had "adopted a certain partisan approach to the issue".

He said the Goverment's agenda was to find a way "where we can all live in peace, harmony and reconciliation on the island" and not "to dictate to one tradition or one group what the solution is going to be".

The British-Irish relationship, North-South relationship and the "relationship between the two different traditions in Northern Ireland" would have to underpin any future arrangements, he said, and added the Government had a unit which would oversee the development of the "shared future" on the island.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin says he does not think a referendum is the way to go (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
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"I do not believe that precipitating or organising a referendum immediately is the way to go," he said.

"That was the Sinn Féin position since Brexit happened, although it has come back a bit from that. The over-focus on the Border poll was too divisive and too partisan and ran counter to what Sinn Féin wanted to achieve."

Ms McDonald countered that there are people in Northern Ireland who have "lived their whole lives in a post-Good Friday Agreement Ireland", and while that is a "great credit", she said it proves it is not true that Sinn Féin are moving with "excessive haste" towards a unity poll.