'What frightens you about a united Ireland?' Andrew Castle quizzes DUP leader

31 October 2021, 11:07 | Updated: 2 November 2021, 17:51

By Seán Hickey

Sir Jeffrey Donaldson was repeatedly pressed on why he and his party oppose the possibility of a united Ireland.

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The Sinn Féin Party Conference got underway in Dublin on Saturday, where party president Mary Lou McDonald told delegates that preparations for a united Ireland must begin north and south of the border.

"A united Ireland, goodness, is that something the country now wants?" Andrew Castle put to Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, leader of the DUP who are historically opposed to Irish unification.

Read more: Who Are The DUP? The Democratic Unionist Party Explained

"The reality is that it's not what the country wants." Sir Jeffrey claimed.

"There isn't a single poll in Northern Ireland that shows a majority in favour of a united Ireland but of course Sinn Féin are determined to destabilise Northern Ireland."

Many recent polls have shown that there is neither a majority for Irish unity nor remaining within the United Kingdom. Experts have cited a bank of undecided voters as the key for both unionists and nationalists in NI to maintain either the status quo or to start proceedings to have a referendum on Irish unity.

Read more: Irish MP brands Lord Frost's Brexit speech 'absolutely lousy'

"And yet Sinn Féin gain in popularity both north and south of the border" Andrew observed, referencing recent polling which also shows Sir Jeffrey's DUP holding 13% support in Northern Ireland.

Read more: Jeffrey Donaldson: EU using Northern Ireland as Brexit 'whipping boy'

The DUP leader insisted that whilst the nationalist Sinn Féin are seeing rising numbers in the Republic of Ireland, they do not make up a majority there, nor do they hold a majority in NI.

"They may be in a strong position as a political party but that doesn't mean there's support for a united Ireland."

"When you see the future of Ireland," Andrew asked, "what is it that so frightens you about the prospect of an Ireland united north and south?"

"Like you I was born a British citizen, why would I want to give my British citizenship up?" Sir Jeffrey countered.

"You're asking me the wrong question.

"You should be asking me why would I want to leave the United Kingdom, the fifth largest economy in the world. A country that supports my part of the United Kingdom, supports her public services."

He added that in Northern Ireland "we have an NHS," and claimed that "they don't have one in the Republic of Ireland."

"My family can grow up in a country that's inclusive of my identity, why would I want to leave the United Kingdom? I'm British. I was born a British citizen. Why would I want to give that up?"