The approach of any Government in relation to Irish unity is guided by Article 3 of the Constitution, as amended by the people in 1998. The Government respects everyone’s right on this island to make the case for the constitutional future they wish to see for Northern Ireland - whether the continuation of the union with Great Britain or a sovereign united Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement - and the two sovereign Governments - explicitly recognise and validate the legitimacy of both of these constitutional positions, which are deeply held.
The holding of a referendum in this jurisdiction is connected with the calling of a border poll, under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, in Northern Ireland. The decision to hold such a poll in Northern Ireland rests with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. The Agreement provides that the Secretary of State shall call a poll: “if at any time it appears likely to him that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.”
The principle of consent and the possibility of change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland are fundamental elements of the Good Friday Agreement, endorsed by the people of the island of Ireland, North and South. Should there be a vote in favour of constitutional change in the future, it will be a binding obligation on both Governments to introduce and support in their respective Parliaments legislation to give effect to that wish.
The full implementation and effective operation of the Good Friday Agreement is a priority for this Government. The Government’s focus now, and our commitment through the Shared Island initiative, is on working with all communities and political traditions, to take up the significant opportunities of deeper cooperation and connection on the island, and to build consensus on key issues for our shared future, underpinned by the Good Friday Agreement.