Northern Ireland

Villiers has 'no plans to call a border poll'

Theresa Villiers
Image caption Theresa Villiers said the conditions were not present to hold a border poll

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers has said she has no plans to call a border poll.

She was speaking in the House of Commons after she was questioned about Sinn Féin's call for a referendum on the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, she has the power to call such a poll.

On Wednesday, responding to a question from SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie, she said she had no intention of doing so.

The conditions were not present, she said.

East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson called Sinn Fein's campaign for a poll a "cynical exercise". He urged the government to campaign for the Union if a poll took place.

The recent flag protests and rioting in Northern Ireland dominated many of the questions to the secretary of state at Wednesday's NI question time at Westminster.

Shadow Secretary Labour MP Vernon Coaker called on the government to outline "concrete proposals " to deal with the issue of identity in Northern Ireland and to detail how it intended to deal with sectarianism and deprivation.

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell urged the government to organise a round-table conference to deal with recent trouble in Northern Ireland. He said the British and Irish governments and the local parties should be involved.

Alliance MP Naomi Long welcomed Ms Villiers' recent visit to her constituency. She said the long-term solution in Northern Ireland required that all the parties work collectively for a "shared future".

Ms Villiers told MPs she believed that delivering a shared future was key. She said it was a theme she had constantly used in her speeches since taking on her role last year.

North Belfast MP Nigel Dodds praised efforts to show Belfast in a positive light, particularly a campaign by the Belfast Telegraph. He said the government could do more.

He suggested that the Cabinet should hold a meeting in Belfast. In recent months the Cabinet have held meetings outside London and it is understood other meetings away from Downing Street are planned.

Ms Villiers said she was not responsible for deciding where the Cabinet meets however she told MPs said would pass the suggestion on. She described the idea of travelling to Belfast as "interesting".

A border poll was last held in Northern Ireland in March 1973. It was largely boycotted by nationalists.

During Northern Ireland Question Time, tributes were also paid to veteran trade unionist Inez McCormack who died earlier in the week.

Her work was praised by Foyle SDLP MP Mark Durkan and Ms Villiers.

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