Former deputy first minister Seamus Mallon has warned that a narrow vote in favour of Irish unity in any future border poll would only serve to increase division and could spark a return to violence.
Under the terms of the Belfast Agreement, the threshold for reunification in a border poll is a simple majority of 50% plus one.
But veteran SDLP figure Mr Mallon believes such an approach is flawed.
Writing in the Irish News yesterday, Mr Mallon – one of the key negotiators of the Belfast Agreement – said a united Ireland requires a majority on both sides of the political divide agreeing.
He said: “I have come increasingly to the view that the Good Friday Agreement metric of a bare ‘50%+1’ majority for unity in a border poll will not give us the kind of agreed and peaceful Ireland we seek.
“A premature border poll may deliver a narrow and completely unworkable majority for unity.”
The former politician said a “more inclusive and generous way to quantify consent” must be found.
He added: “This generosity could be shown by nationalists in two ways: firstly, by not pushing for unity until there is wider and deeper acceptance of it among the unionist community; and secondly, by a willingness to put forward some arrangement more congenial.”
Legislation states that the secretary of state has to call a vote if it appears likely there would be a majority in support of reunification.
Karen Bradley has previously said she does not believe such conditions have been met.