Donaldson tells News Letter: I would stay if a united Ireland ever happened – 400 years of our blood is in Ulster’s soil

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Amid a renewed focus this week on the likelihood of a border poll, Sir Jeffrey Donaldson has re-iterated that even if a united Ireland hypothetically came to pass, he would never leave Ulster.

The DUP leader was responding to questions from the News Letter about the possibility of some kind of referendum on re-unification in the coming years.

Michelle O’Neill has previously said that she wanted a referendum by 2024.

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But Mary Lou McDonald later indicated that she was aiming more for the end of the decade.

Sir Jeffrey DonaldsonSir Jeffrey Donaldson
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

And whilst the US Friends of Sinn Fein took out expensive adverts in both the New York Times and Washington Post on St Patrick’s Day, saying “this is the time for the people of Ireland to have their say”, on Tuesday Mrs O’Neill indicated that in fact the party is not pursuing re-unification as a priority right now.

“There won’t be any secret that I want to see unity in the country,” she said.

“But I am focused for today on the cost-of-living crisis.”

A day earlier, Loyalist Communities Council chairman David Campbell, alongside Cambridge economics expert Graham Gudgin, both told the News Letter that unionism has nothing to fear from such a vote, because long-term opinion polling shows they would win comfortably.

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DUP leader Sir Jeffrey DonaldsonDUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson
DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson

The News Letter asked Sir Jeffrey if, in the event a border poll did come to pass, he would advocate a unionist boycott of it.

Sir Jeffrey said: “The last thing Northern Ireland needs is a divisive border poll.

“It would be hugely destabilising and leads to even more anger and squabbling.

“We are just recovering from Covid. Everyone has been through enough. It is not a question of unionist participation but rather a question of why we need any such poll at all.”

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Back in 2018, Arlene Foster – the then-leader of the DUP – had been asked what she would do in a united Ireland.

“I’m not sure that I would be able to continue to live here, I would feel so strongly about it,” she said. “I would probably have to move.”

Asked the same question, Sir Jeffrey told the News Letter: “I’ve lived in Northern Ireland all my life.

“My family has been here for over 400 years and our blood is in the soil. I will always live here.

“I love this place. I want it to succeed.

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“If people unite behind the DUP, then we can derail Sinn Fein’s border poll plan. Sinn Fein’s only plan for Northern Ireland is to remove it from the UK.”

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