Irish unity poll now ‘inevitable’ after Sinn Féin success, warns former PM

PUBLISHED: 15:37 10 February 2020 | UPDATED: 15:37 10 February 2020

Thomas Gould of Sinn Fein tops the poll and is elected in Cork North Centra during the Irish General Election count. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

Thomas Gould of Sinn Fein tops the poll and is elected in Cork North Centra during the Irish General Election count. Photograph: Yui Mok/PA Wire.

Ireland’s former prime minister Bertie Ahern has warned that a border poll on a united Ireland is now ‘inevitable’ after Sinn Féin’s election success.

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Bertie Ahern, the former taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader, said: "I think a border poll is inevitable".

While he expected it to not happen immediately, he did expect it to be something that faced Ireland in the next decade.

He continued: "If you ask me when that is, I think it's probably five years off at least.

"I think the Sinn Féin position is it should be held within five years.

"So let's say we are talking about it being five years off, I do not think you are going to get the circumstances where it would become a condition of government that it has to be held in the short term.

"But it will be inevitable over this decade."

Ahern also warned against rushing towards a poll on reunification before extensive preparatory work had been completed.

"It can only be done when the preparation is done, when the case is made, when it has been well explained, when people know the outcome," he told BBC Radio 4.

"To try and push it or rush it, which some people will probably try to do, would be a grave mistake."

Sinn Fein has gained the most first preference votes in Ireland's 2020 election held on Saturday, however a united Ireland and Brexit did not feature as major voting issues.

Domestic crises in the health and housing sector are widely accepted as the two main drivers behind the shift in Irish politics.

Northern Ireland deputy first minister Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill said she "absolutely" feels this election has pushed Irish reunification closer.

"We have said things are going in this direction for some time, I think for a number of reasons not least the fact that the unionist majority, the very basis on which this northern state was founded, is gone and has been gone over the last number of elections.

"But I think this is a seismic election shift in the 26 counties, Sinn Féin are the largest party in the 26 counties, I think that is significant in itself."

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