Sinn Fein has said next year’s vote on Scottish independence has boosted the party’s calls for a ‘border poll’.
A vote on Irish reunification (within the unionist-dominated Six County area) is permitted under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. Sinn Fein is seeking such a poll within the term of next Stormont Assembly.
Speaking from a political conference in Glasgow this week, Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy said, “Today marks the 365 day countdown to the referendum on Scottish independence.
“A year from now the people of Scotland will vote in an exercise of self-determination that will decide their relationship with their nearest neighbours.
“It is now time that the people of Ireland be allowed to exercise their right to determine relationships across the island of Ireland and with Britain. The Good Friday Agreement provided for a border poll and it is now time to set the date for such a poll.”
Earlier this year the DUP said it would consider “calling Sinn Fein’s bluff” by holding a poll, confident that the outcome would see a united Ireland rejected. Any referendum would also have to be called by the British Direct Ruler in Ireland, Theresa Villiers, but she has ruled out what she described as “divisive constitutional debates”.
Another republican group has called for an all-Ireland vote rather than a Six-County poll.
The ‘1916 Societies’ is a small Irish republican political organisation with links to Scotland.
In an initiative, the organisation has sent every member of the Scottish Parliament a letter asking to support the campaign for an all-Ireland referendum.
“Next year’s referendum is about Scottish independence and it is also about the future of the UK state. The same state which continues to occupy part of Ireland,” the group said in a statement.
“For Irish republicans in Scotland next year’s vote is a strategic priority. We must do all we can to encourage a Yes vote. The people of Ireland have the same democratic rights as the people of Scotland.
“The right to national self-determination, exercised through a national constitutional referendum just like Scotland, is Ireland’s democratic future.”
The group said it firmly rejects Sinn Fein’s ‘border poll’ plan.
“The proposed Six County border poll under Britain’s Northern Ireland Act 1998 permits the Secretary of State (an English politician devoid of a single vote in Ireland) to determine: when and if a poll may be called, the wording of the poll and, who qualifies to vote,” they said.
“Even if passed the British parliament retains the final say on whether or not the result will be endorsed by the UK government.
“We believe the core concept of Irish republicanism is that Irish constitutional authority derives from the Irish people and does not defer to laws or decrees emanating from London.
“As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising it is clear that Britain continues to refuse to recognise Ireland as one democratic unit and presumes that Westminster will define the parameters of Irish democracy.”