Councillors clash over Irish unity and Europe

A Sinn Féin motion calling on a date for a border poll was rejected at the October meeting of Derry City & Strabane District Council.

Friday, 1st November 2019, 4:51 pm
Sinn Fein Councillor Mickey Cooper.

Colr. Mickey Cooper proposed writing to the Secretary of State, Julian Smith, to tell him to set a timetable for a ‘Unity Referendum’ in the event of Brexit.

“It is not a republican issue. It is an issue that will affect everybody and we should be having a reasonable, rational debate, and that includes unionists. The DUP did support Brexit but a lot of unionists, and we did have conversations with them, they are seeing the wood from the trees,” he said.

SDLP Colr. Brian Tierney said his party was in favour of a unity but the timing was off.

“The SDLP’s vision is a reconciled people living in a united, just and prosperous new Ireland. Those are the views and the principles we bring here today. As the party of civil rights the SDLP is working for an Ireland free from poverty, prejudice and injustice, a vibrant country of energy, enterprise and endeavour,” he said.

DUP Alderman David Ramsey said: “Who I’m going to speak for today is the 71 per cent of people who voted for the Good Friday Agreement. I voted against it but I believe in democracy, just like with Brexit, I believe in democracy. So I’m going to speak on behalf of the people who voted for peace and reconciliation because although it was a political agreement people voted for peace and reconciliation. What we are working on here is railroading through the GFA.”

Independent Colr. Paul Gallagher proposed removing all mention of Brexit.

“This motion needs to come forward regardless of what the Brits do or what they don’t do. Twenty-one years have passed since the signing of the GFA and some conditions were laid down within that. If there is a sense that a majority of 51 per cent of the people of the North was likely to vote then the Secretary of State should call a referendum. That condition has been met,” he said.

Alliance Colr. Rachel Ferguson said: “Brexit is bad for everyone, 100 per cent. It’s a very fluid situation. The priority for us is making NI work and promoting reconciliation regardless of what happens.”

She said now wasn’t the time for a border poll.

People Before Profit Colr. Shaun Harkin said: “We believe it should be an all-Ireland vote as it’s an issue that’s going to affect everybody on this island. As socialists we’ve always opposed partition. We look to the great hero of the working-class, James Connolly, who over a 100 years ago campaigned against partition.”

Independent Colr. Gary Donnelly said: “This motion, when it talks about a ‘Unitary Irish State within the EU’ - what type of message does that send to unionists? That when they come in to an Irish State we have already decided it will be within the EU? Is it not for the people of Ireland to decide their laws, what government they want, and whether they as a whole want to be in or out of the EU? I can’t support this motion.”

The motion fell with 13 for and 19 against its provisions. There were four abstentions.