Plans must be made for poll on united Ireland, says Sinn Féin deputy

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre) with newly elected TDs from her party arriving at Leinst

Sinn Fein Leader Mary Lou McDonald (centre) with newly elected TDs from her party arriving at Leinster House, Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The deputy leader of Sinn Féin has said that Ireland must prepare for a border poll within the next five years.

Speaking at a public meeting in Dublin's Liberty Hall, Michelle O'Neill accused the leaders of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael - Micheal Martin and Leo Varadkar - of doing nothing to prepare.

O'Neill said: "Change is coming. It is an inevitable position that we are all in.

"I have no doubt in my mind that in the immediate future we will be voting in a border poll.

"Our party position is that there should be a unity referendum in the next five years as that gives us time to plan. There has to be preparation and we have to give people information.

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"The new Ireland we want to live in is not just for republicans or nationalists - it has to be for every single person who shares this island.

"There is nothing to fear from it, it is actually something better."

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She added: "Leo and Micheal purport to be united Irelanders. Well, they have done nothing about it. Not one thing about it. So that is why it is time to plan for the future and change."

It comes as protesters planned a demonstration in the coming days calling for a change to Ireland's government.

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald said the party will not be taking part in the People Before Profit protests against Fianna Fail and Fine Gael.

Posters for the event which were distributed outside the meeting describe it as a march against Fianna Fail and Fine Gael returning to government.

When asked by a member of People Before Profit in the audience if she would take part in the demonstration, Ms McDonald said: "You don't need our permission to go and organise and protest.

"I would say this to you - the focus of our work is on negotiations with other parties and of course talking to all of you and engaging with you.

"We need to have conversations with all of you but also detailed conversations with other parties and then it comes down to numbers because this is a numbers game, it is about policy but it is also about political will."

She criticised the leaders of Fine Gael and Fianna Fail for refusing to meet them for government formation talks.

She said: "I have a message for the leaders of those parties who have decided not to speak to us. I say this: we respect your mandate and now it is time that you respect ours.

"I think it is very clear that we will talk to everybody because that is what adults do. I say to them, listen to the voices of the electorate and understand this - the vote for change was a vote to get Fianna Fail and Fine Gael out of government and not to put them back in."

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