Paisley move exposes DUP’s fear of democracy

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The DUP has been accused of “having trouble respecting democracy” after north Antrim MP Ian Paisley drafted a Westminster bill to increase the majorities required for referendums on Irish unity and Scottish independence.

Paisley has denied his bill changes the rules of democracy and claimed it would ensure “stability”. Nationalists said it showed he is running scared of voters following indications of a majority in favour of Irish unity.

After taking second place to Sinn Féin in the Stormont Assembly election in May, the DUP has blocked the operation of the Six County power-sharing institutions in protest at Brexit-mandated checks at ports.

The diehard Brexiteer ironically said he is now motivated to change the law on referendums to require “supermajorities” because of Brexit. The vote to take Britain out of the European Union passed by 52% to 48% in 2016, winning a majority of votes in England and Wales, but losing in Scotland and the north of Ireland.

Paisley, who remains a supporter of a hard Brexit, claims he has “reflected upon” the vote.

“I’ve listened to people’s arguments. I’ve also experienced the acrimony that has since flown from then and I’ve said well, let’s learn from our experience,” he said.

SDLP South Belfast MP Claire Hanna described his move as a stunt. She said the constitutional future of Ireland would be decided by the mechanisms contained within the Good Friday Agreement, which would allow for a simple majority in any border poll on Irish unity.

Ms Hanna added: “This is essentially an exercise in trolling from an MP who has decided against being a serious political actor.”

Sinn Féin said Paisley wanted to “give Unionism a veto over the rest of us”.

Sinn Féin MP Chris Hazzard said: “It’s clear that the DUP are having trouble respecting democracy.

“Not content with refusing to accept the outcome of May’s Assembly election because they didn’t like the result, they now want the law changed to give Unionism a veto over the rest of us in a democratic referendum on our constitutional future.”

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