Mid Ulster Council to debate Irish unity motion

Mid Ulster District Council could be set to launch a consultation for business and ratepayers to put forward their views on the potential for Irish unity – if a Sinn Fein motion on the matter is supported by the chamber.

Thursday, 27th May 2021, 12:59 pm

The motion will be brought forward by Cookstown councillor John McNamee at May’s monthly meeting of the local authority on Thursday (May 27) evening.

The motion claims comes in the wake of Council’s decision not to fly the Union Flag at half mast following the death of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh and unionist councillors discontent with Council’s policy on dual language street signs.

The motion reads: “That this council recognises that the discussion about a constitutional change is now well underway and this council has a duty to consult with its ratepayers on this important issue and the implications for the council area.

“Therefore, calls on the council to establish a working group on Irish unity and to begin a consultation with ratepayers and community and business representatives to assess views on issues related to constitutional change.”

Brought forward by a Sinn Fein councillor, the motion is expected to have the backing of the party’s 17 members but it remains unclear just how many of the other 23 elected members of Council will support it.

With the SDLP having recently launched the first panel of its own New-Ireland Commission, the party’s five representatives on Council are expected to bring an amendment to the floor but could be minded to support the motion regardless of the amendment’s success.

And, it is understood that while fully supportive of any attempts to advance the cause of Irish unity, the independent republican councillors on Council have concerns about their exclusion from the local authority’s working groups.

However, the Ulster Unionist Party will be voting against the motion with the party’s group leader, Councillor Walter Cuddy, telling the Local Democracy Reporting Service in his view, the motion’s point of reference is wrong.

“We are not afraid of a discussion about the best possible future for Northern Ireland,” said Cllr Cuddy.

“While we recognise Irish unity may be a potential option, it is not the only option and our party has a strong desire to work towards strengthening ties with our English, Scottish and Welsh cousins.

“We think this motion puts forward the wrong terms of reference and seeks simply to focus on one option and press forward with it while ignoring all others. We will not be supporting it, nor will we be sitting on any working groups that are a result of it.”

The DUP will also vote against the motion, with the party of the belief the subject of the motion – the constitutional position of Northern Ireland – is beyond the remit of Mid Ulster District Council’s authority.

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