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Taoiseach Micheal Martin speaking in Stormont yesterday. Brian Lawless/PA Images
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Taoiseach Micheál Martin 'doesn't see' a border poll being a possibility during his government

Martin said he would work towards getting North-South infrastructure projects “over the line”.

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN says that he doesn’t see a border poll being a possibility within the lifetime the current government.

Martin said that such a poll “doesn’t move things forward” and that he favours working on “what a shared Ireland would look like”.

The Taoiseach made the comments during his first visit to Northern Ireland since taking office. 

Asked about Sinn Féin’s calls for a referendum on a united Ireland, Martin said he doesn’t see it being a possibility in the next few years. 

“I don’t see it as a possibility during the lifetime of this government,” he told RTÉ News.

But what I would like to see is significant work underway in terms of what a shared Island would look like. Rhetoric is easy, statements are easy, we can all speak to our base. But there’s a hell of a lot of work. And a lot of practical stuff can get done. 

Asked if he’d like to see a united Ireland in his lifetime, Martin said he “grew up in that tradition” and he “understands the motivation” behind it. 

I think we evolve our thinking, one of the last conversations I had with Seamus Mallon before he passed away, when he was launching his book, he said people have been living in this location for 400 years. It’s about time we learned how to share the location with them. And I think his thinking has influenced me.

“I’m simply saying that the rhetoric is easy, the hard bit really is the substance of the relationship and how you grow that relationship,” the Taoiseach added.


During his visit to Belfast, Martin met the leaders of the devolved Stormont administration, Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill, and Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis.

Speaking key north-south infrastructure projects, Martin said he would work towards getting the “over the line”

January’s ‘New Decade, New Approach’ deal to restore Stormont power-sharing pledged to “turbo-charge” connections between Dublin and Belfast.

As part of it, Dublin also promised to jointly funding cross-border investment on bridges, roads and canals.

Martin said: “I will be an engaging, understanding Taoiseach, trying to keep people together and trying to move forward on the economic front in particular and also in terms of getting projects over the line that we have been talking about for some time.”

Irish government promises as part of January’s power-sharing deal included supporting:

  • Dualling the A5 road from the border linking Co Tyrone to Derry and Donegal in the Republic and supporting an Ulster Canal connection from Clones in the Republic to Upper Lough Erne in Co Fermanagh.
  • Funding worth €83 million up to 2022 for the A5.
  • Considering the feasibility of a high-speed rail connection between Belfast, Dublin and Cork, creating a “spine of connectivity” on the island.
  • Jointly progressing options for the development of the Narrow Water bridge project at a North South Ministerial Council of ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic.

The Council will meet at Dublin Castle at the end of this month for the first time in three and a half years.

Ministers on both sides of the border have also pledged to work closely together to suppress spread of the coronavirus.

Ireland is due to announce more details about restrictions on travel next week and has seen a slight upturn in the reproductive rate of the virus.

Martin said the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which enshrined the devolved institutions at Stormont and cross-border bodies was his “touchstone”.

He promised to take a pragmatic approach based on nurturing key relationships underpinning peace and reconciliation on the island.

He said he understood the need to build relations and had met with loyalists and unionists in the past.

- With reporting by Press Association

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