Written answers

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Northern Ireland

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Leader of the Opposition; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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48. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he discussed the latest study carried out by persons (details supplied) with his officials on calculating that, in the event of a united Ireland being voted upon, subsidising Northern Ireland would reduce living standards here by 15%; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [45860/19]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The approach of the Government in relation to Irish unity is of course guided by Article 3 of the Constitution, as amended by the people in 1998.

The principle of consent and the possibility of change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are fundamental elements of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of this island North and South.

My Department is aware of the recent academic and other research papers on this subject which have been published, including the study referenced by the Deputy. In the absence of the prospect of a referendum in the near future, the Government has no immediate plans for specific preparations on this issue and there has been no structured examination by officials from my Department of the potential costs of a United Ireland.

The holding of a referendum in this jurisdiction is connected with the calling of a border poll, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, in Northern Ireland. Under the Good Friday Agreement, the Secretary of State shall exercise this power "if at any time it appears likely ... that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland."

While the decision to hold such a poll in Northern Ireland rests with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, the Government does not believe it likely at present that such a border poll in the near future would result in a decision on the part of a majority of the people of Northern Ireland in favour of constitutional change. In these circumstances, it is the Government’s clear view that such a poll would only increase uncertainty and division at an already difficult and sensitive time.

The Government respects everyone’s right on this island to make the case for the constitutional future they wish to see for Northern Ireland - whether nationalist, unionist or neither. The Good Friday Agreement - and the two sovereign Governments - explicitly recognise and validate the legitimacy of both of these constitutional positions, which are deeply held.

The Government’s immediate priorities are to secure the functioning of the devolved power-sharing institutions and the North South Ministerial Council, which are at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement, and to ensure the protection of the Agreement in all its parts and the gains of the Peace Process, in the context of the UK decision to exit the European Union under any scenario.


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