Outside the United Kingdom this Saturday, news may have gone unnoticed that Michelle O'Neill, vice-leader of Sinn Féin, the independence party in Northern Ireland, has become the first president of a local government, or rather , to support Irish unification.
It is important to remember that Northern Ireland has been without an autonomous government since 2022 due to the boycott of the second largest party, the DUP (the Kingdom's exit from the EU). From the beginning of this month, the agreement guarantees relief from inspection of goods between the Big Island and Northern Ireland (as long as the goods are in Northern Ireland as agreed with the EU) and greater liquidity, explains Jose Guto Nogueira. related results “Stormont Break”.
But in her inauguration speech, Michelle O'Neill said – Francisco Sena Santos' “vague opening words” -, “Today, the doors to the future are opening”, adding that “this is the decade of opportunity”. Rishi Sunak responded to questions from the British media about the British province's new Prime Minister Michelle O'Neill's statements on Sunday about holding a referendum on reunification with the Republic of Ireland as a matter of priority. It should not be a “constitutional change”.
Will there be a referendum next?
The UK Prime Minister made it clear that this was not the time to talk about a referendum or consolidation.
During his visit to Belfast, Sunak also met his Irish counterpart Leo Varadkar, who also declared it a “historic day”. Varadkar stressed that there are many day-to-day issues that need attention, which is why he raised the possibility of a referendum in Northern Ireland.
“I think the priority of any new administration in any country and any government should be the day-to-day concerns of the people,” he said.
The 1998 peace agreement established that the British government would decide whether the conditions for holding a referendum were met if there was a majority of evidence in favor of the province's reunification with the Republic of Ireland. Sinn Féin, the republican and nationalist party, supports the merger, while the DUP opposes it.
Why the warning?
According to the Politico newspaper, the confusion was caused by the words oh'Neil was thrown out of context. The independence activist said it was a “decade of opportunity” as he answered questions from journalists about the possibility of a referendum in the next decade.
Sunak rules out any possibility in the future. “This morning I had very constructive meetings with the political leaders of Stormont, with the executive, and this is a historic and important day for the country because the politicians of Northern Ireland are back in charge, making decisions on behalf of the citizens, who should be right,” he told reporters.
According to Sunak, this is “everyone's priority right now, not constitutional change”.
And what is the Stormont break?
The 1998 peace agreement established that the British government would decide whether the conditions for holding a referendum were met if there was a majority of evidence in favor of the province's reunification with the Republic of Ireland.
Sinn Féin, the republican and nationalist party, supports the merger, while the DUP opposes it.
The DUP helped create Northern Ireland's autonomous legislature and executive on Saturday after the British government approved new legislation on post-Brexit customs controls.
The new measures foresee the extension of the “green lane” so that goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom do not need customs controls.
This “green route” was created by the Windsor Framework Agreement, negotiated between London and Brussels last year to break the deadlock in the region, but the DUP felt its terms were insufficient.
The DUP left government in February 2022 and refused to return because it did not accept what it described as a “trading border in the Irish Sea” created by customs restrictions on goods moving between Northern Ireland and the rest of the kingdom.
The British government also announced that European Union (EU) law would no longer automatically apply to Northern Ireland and pledged £3.3 billion (€3.9 billion) to the new executive to help finance it.
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