Polls NI and the UK

GERRY MORIARTY

Northern Editor

Sinn Féin is maintaining its push for a Border poll on a united Ireland on the back of the Scottish independence referendum. In the Northern Assembly yesterday , Sinn Féin North Antrim member Daithí McKay said people in Northern Ireland also should be offered a plebiscite on independence.

His call follows similar demands issued by senior Sinn Féin figures such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness after the people of Scotland voted no to independence on Thursday.

Mr McKay said that the “public in Scotland and the public here do not want their politicians to continue to bend the knee to the Tories and the British treasury. It was a healthy exercise in Scotland. There was some scaremongering, but, across the world, Scotland has been held up as a shining example of how to hold a mature debate about future governance,” he added.

“We should have a poll in Ireland about whether Ireland is better together and, like I said, no scaremongering,” urged Mr McKay.

The DUP East Antrim MLA Sammy Wilson however was dismissive . Referring to a BBC Spotlight poll early last year, he said: “I am surprised that Sinn Fein wishes to have a Border poll, given that 25 per cent of its own supporters do not support its idea of a united Ireland. A vast majority of people here are in favour of the union.”

Mr Wilson claimed that such calls were a tactic to divert attention from Sinn Féin’s economic “incompetence” in Northern Ireland. He was also critical of the Scottish National Party. “I congratulate the people of Scotland for recognising the benefits of the union, despite the tartan terror tactics of the SNP during a very contentious referendum campaign,” he said.

Mr Wilson said it was a campaign “that saw academics threatened, civil servants abusing their power, public meetings broken up, businessmen told that there would be consequences if they did not keep their mouths shut and people afraid even to show their loyalties and where they stood for fear of having their property attacked”.

“It was typical of the nasty face of nationalism. We have seen it in Northern Ireland, and the people of Scotland witnessed it during the referendum campaign,” he added.

The SDLP West Belfast MLA Alex Attwood however praised the SNP and its outgoing leader Alex Salmond. “What they have achieved and how far they have travelled puts into sharp relief how little we have travelled because of those in our society on the state and non-state sides who, for many a long year, opposed the democratic approach and used coercion,” he said.

Mr Attwood also complained that Mr Wilson had allegedly used unparliamentary language is referring to “tartan terror tactics of the SNP”.

Alliance leader David Ford said the No Scottish result “was not actually a victory for unionism over nationalism” but a victory based on the promise from the British Conservative and Labour parties of “devo max” or extra devolved powers for Scotland.

Mr Ford wondered how Northern Ireland could look for similar additional powers when “we are currently running through a crisis because of our inabilities and our immaturity”.

He added: “It seems to me that, at the moment, we have a complete immaturity on economics, which is matched by an irresponsibility on some of the issues around parades and flags, and we have a group of victims from the past who are utterly let down by our failure in this place to deal with the key issues for us.

“It is great to talk about what the Scots have achieved, but unless we are prepared to knuckle down and engage in real and meaningful talks here to solve our problems, then we have nothing to say.”

Ulster Unionist Party leader Mike Nesbitt said unionists rejoiced in the result while Traditional Unionist Voice leader Jim Allister said it was “good to see the canny, wise Scots refuse the invitation to break up the United Kingdom”.

DUP East Derry MLA Gregory Campbell said the Scottish referendum was “done and dusted, and we now get down to the hard work of ensuring that people do not feel disaffected, irrespective of which part of this United Kingdom they live in and belong to.”