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Stormont leaders should focus on ‘day-to-day’ concerns not border poll – Sunak

05 Feb 2024 3 minute read
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak during a meeting with members of the newly-formed Stormont Executive at Stormont Castle. Photo Kelvin Boyes/Press Eye/PA Wire

Stormont leaders should focus on the “day-to-day” concerns of people in Northern Ireland rather than the prospect of a ballot on reunification, the Prime Minister has suggested.

Rishi Sunak said “constitutional change” was not a priority after First Minister Michelle O’Neill claimed a border poll could be held in the next 10 years.

Mr Sunak joined Irish premier Leo Varadkar and Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris in Belfast on Monday to mark the return of a powersharing Executive following two years of political stalemate.

Constructive

Speaking to broadcasters on the visit, the Prime Minister said: “I had very constructive meetings this morning with the Executive, with political leaders across Stormont, and it is a historic and important day for the country, because Northern Ireland’s politicians are back in charge, making decisions on behalf of their people, which is exactly how it should be.

“Now, our new deal gives them more funding and more powers than they have ever had, so they can deliver for families and businesses across Northern Ireland. And that’s what everyone’s priority is now.

“It is not constitutional change, it is delivering on the day-to-day things that matter to people.”

Border poll

Earlier on Monday, Mr Heaton-Harris also dismissed the prospect of a border poll when asked about Ms O’Neill’s suggestion.

“I really don’t think that’s going to happen but as Secretary of State I am the person responsible in Government to check whether the conditions for that have been met,” he told LBC.

“They’re definitely not met at this point in time, and I would suggest that actually top of the in tray for an incoming Executive has to be things like public sector pay, the health service, which needs massive transformation here, funding on education and a whole host of other things that actually all people in Northern Ireland from both communities truly care about.”

He said he would have to be “confident” that there was a potential majority of people in Northern Ireland “who would like to depart from their current constitutional status” for the conditions to be met.

DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson criticised the Sinn Fein First Minister for focusing on the “divisive” issue.

“She says she wants to be a First Minister for all, well that means the unionist community,” he told Sky News.

He said the Executive must work on the basis that a majority of people in Northern Ireland support the union.

“Let’s move forward together. Let’s focus on the issues that really matter to people. They’re not interested in a divisive border poll,” Sir Jeffrey said.

On Sunday, Ms O’Neill – the first nationalist to assume the post of First Minister – said: “I believe we are in a decade of opportunity and there are so many things that are changing.

“All the old norms, the nature of this estate, the fact that a nationalist/republican was never supposed to be First Minister.

“This all speaks to that change.”


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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago

What a guy, he has been in the job five minutes and he is telling the whole of Ireland how to do it…Mr ‘waste/steal as much peoples money as you can Sunak…

PPE, Rwanda, Dodgy deals world wide and if that ain’t Badenough, he is India’s trade rep living in Downing St…

Robert
Robert
17 days ago

Constitutional reform is of the utmost importance, the sooner NI can get away from Britain (Westminster) the better.

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
17 days ago

Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little Pengelly had already agreed in the first returned session at Stormont on Saturday that the day to day business for the people they govern for was their joint priority and even Michelles’ comments on a border poll in a decade confirm that. What do we have either side of this sitting? The leader of the DUP casting himself as the hero responsible for the return after holding the people in disdain for almost two years and then the Prime Minister wading in with wreckless rhetoric proving that the ‘priority’ for both of them is not… Read more »

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
17 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

Reckless.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago
Reply to  Fi yn unig

You mean Eric…

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
17 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

I think I must have. 🤣

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago

Santa Monica is only ten miles down the road from Holywood, that must be a bit confusing for Sunak…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago

Keep politicians away from other peoples children…beyond creepy !

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
17 days ago

He bet that creep Morgan a grand he could stuff a couple of refugee kids in a drone and have them crash in Rwanda or did I just dream that…

Seriously twisted like all his little demons on the front bench…

Arglwydd Mawr !

Dai Ponty
Dai Ponty
17 days ago

What the English and mostly Tories have right to govern them selves if they wish to do so and they should not have to ask sorry beg for permission to have a referendum they are quick to DICTATE to other countries

Gwyn Hopkins
Gwyn Hopkins
17 days ago

Economists accept GDP per Capita (GDPPC) figures as a good measure of the well-being and prosperity of countries. The GDPPCs for the countries of the British Isles (for 2021) were: England £32,763; Scotland £29,035; Northern Ireland £25,399; Wales £24,339; Republic of Ireland £74,289. Wales is bottom of the pecking order, of course, with Northern Ireland just above Wales, whereas the GDPPC of the Irish Republic is almost 3 times that of Northern Ireland. If I was living in Northern Ireland I wouldn’t take much notice of Sunak’s plea not to strive for a United Ireland!

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