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Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald demands border poll following success in North elections

The party are set to win the majority of seats in Stormont

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald (left) arrives with Vice-President Michelle O’Neill (right) to the Titanic Exhibition Centre in Belfast, as counting continues for the Northern Ireland Assembly (Liam McBurney/PA)

Clodagh Meaney

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald has demanded a border poll as the party are set to win the majority of seats in the Northern Ireland election.

With counting still ongoing, the nationalist party have won 18 seats so far, and are predicted to secure a majority for the first time in history.

The DUP are trailing behind with 14 seats won. 39 seats are currently undeclared.

“In the first instance we need to start planning now for the change ahead,” Mary Lou McDonald told TalkTV from the count in Belfast.

“And that has to involve all of us and we believe it needs to be led by the Government in Dublin in the first instance.”

She said that five years was a reasonable timescale to prepare for a united Ireland.

“I believe that we are going to see these referendums, and there have to be two bear in mind, north and south - in the coming years.

“Certainly within this decade, this decade of opportunity we are going to see constitutional change on the island of Ireland.”

“I believe that the referendum will be possible within a five year time frame,” she continued.

“But much more importantly I believe that the preparation needs to start now.

“There will be no prize for anyone who buried their head in the sand or who allowed even the prospect of a disorderly reunification process.

“We saw Brexit disorder, lack of planning, lack of understanding. We are not going to repeat those mistakes on the island of Ireland.”

The last time a border poll referendum took place was in 1973, during the height of the Troubles.

With a low turnout of 59 pc, 98.9 pc of voters opted to keep NI as part of the UK.

Throughout the campaign, Sinn Fein Vice President Michelle O’Neill said that cost of living was the big election issue, downplaying the issue of Irish unity.

After a poll suggested that only 30 pc of people in the north wanted a united Ireland she confessed:

“I think it’s an interesting poll.

“It’s one in a long line of polls. I looked very briefly at the figures this morning but I don’t think people woke up this morning thinking about that.

“I think people woke up this morning thinking about the cost of living crisis. I think people woke up this morning around the pressure they feel right now.

“So, I’m focused on the cost of living crisis, I’m focused now on what I will do in health, I’m focused on what I’m going to do in the Executive on the other side of the election. I’m focused on what I will do with the economy brief. I’m focused on all of these things.

“Yes, there will come a day whenever we will vote on the constitutional question and I will bring my politics to that.”

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