UK shadow secretary ‘would call border poll if circumstances right’

Britain’s Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary has said he will call a border ballot if the circumstances are right.

Abour MP for Hove, Peter Kyle said he “wouldn’t be a hindrance if the circumstances arose”.

The Secretary for Northern Ireland has the power to call a referendum on Irish unity.

While it is unclear what the specific criteria would be to guide such a decision, the Good Friday Agreement states that the referendum should be held if it seems likely that a majority of those voting would want Ireland of the North leaves the United Kingdom and becomes part of a united Ireland.

Mr Kyle said he did not believe the issue was affected by last week’s census results which revealed there were more Catholics than Protestants in Northern Ireland for the first time since partition , or that Sinn Féin became the largest party in the last Assembly elections.

“These are all interrelated aspects of the debate, but actually this crucial aspect of when there is a clear majority, which is what was spelled out in the Good Friday agreement, is quite another thing,” he told BBC Sunday Politics. performance at the UK Labor Party Conference.

“If circumstances arose as set out in the Good Friday Agreement, I as Secretary of State would not be playing games. I would call the border ballot.

“But these are issues which when you look at the direct needs in Northern Ireland at the moment – ​​we have a cost of living crisis, there is a crisis in public services in Northern Ireland, the lists longest waits for treatment in the NHS. This is what we must do now.

“So the constitutional issues are important, but don’t pretend that that distracts from the real issues.”

Mr Kyle also said that if the Labor Party came to power and he became Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, and it was clear that those circumstances arose, he would set out the criteria in detail.

“We’re not even in that situation yet, so when we get to the point where those circumstances set out in the Good Friday agreement start to emerge and it becomes a priority for the people of Northern Ireland, I I will do it,” he said. .

With speculation that new Stormont Assembly elections may have to be called, with the institutions remaining unable to fully function due to the DUP’s boycott of the Northern Ireland Protocol, Mr Kyle said more elections would be a “sign of lamentable failure”.

“It’s the job of politicians to solve the problems of residents and voters, it’s not the job of voters to solve the problems of politicians,” he said.

“We now have a small window of opportunity. We have a new Prime Minister, a new Secretary of State and we also have a new Head of State. I think we have a great opportunity to really seize the moment and move forward.

Meanwhile, when asked about his time in Northern Ireland, Mr Kyle said he had been to the region twice in the past two months.

He added that since being named to the shadow portfolio in November 2021, he has been there on several occasions, including a period when he visited weekly for five consecutive weeks.

Mr Kyle said his instinct had always been to travel to Northern Ireland as often as he could, but that depended on how much he was needed at Westminster.

“I would like to be there, but I don’t have the power, as an opposition, to sit around the table and call all the political parties together and say, let’s start making progress on this” , he added.

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