Northern Ireland’s Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness called for a referendum on a united Ireland shortly after the UK voted to leave the European Union.
The Sinn Féin MLA said the British government has a “democratic imperative” to call a referendum on whether Northern Ireland should leave the United Kingdom and unite with the Irish Republic.
“The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a ‘border poll’ to be held,” said Mc-Guinness.
“We are now in unchartered waters, nobody really knows what is going to happen. The implications for all of us on the island of Ireland are absolutely massive.”
Support in Northern Ireland for Remain had slumped from 75% in late February at the polls to 56% at the ballot box. Despite the drop in support Sinn Féin said the vote by more than 440,000 people in Northern Ireland in favour of staying meant it would now “intensify” its demand for reunification.
A border poll can only be called by the Secretary of State in circumstances where there is clear evidence of a public opinion swing towards Irish unity – and Theresa Villiers, a prominent Leave campaigner, ruled out the possibility.
“Our nation state… backed hope, backed aspiration, backed the future potential of the United Kingdom and I am very pleased with the result.”
Sinn Féin, as well as the SDLP and Ulster Unionists, was in favour of the UK remaining in the EU, while the Democratic Unionist Party was in favour of Brexit.
First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster welcomed the vote to Leave.
“I think that this is a good result for the United Kingdom,” she said. “Our nation state has made a clear definition of where they want to go. They backed hope, they backed aspiration, the backed the future potential of the United Kingdom and I am very pleased with the result.”
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK to share a land border with another EU country, the Republic of Ireland.
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said Ireland Taoiseach Enda Kenny is now the most important person on this island in deciding Ireland’s relationship, North and South, with the European Union.
“His Government has huge influence in this upcoming negotiation. He must now be a powerful voice on our behalf,” he said.