The chances of the reunification of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland just saw a significant improvement after a senior member of government said he “would not be a barrier” to proposals for a referendum.
The famous Good Friday Agreement states that the Northern Irish Government can call a referendum if it seems likely that the majority of voters want to leave the UK and unite with the Republic of Ireland.
Now Labour MP and Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Kyle he said that he “would not be a barrier if the circumstances emerge”.
This comes after census results last week showed that, for the first time in Northern Ireland’s history, Catholics now outnumber Protestants in the country.
In the 2001 census, Protestants outnumbered Northern Irish Catholics by 53.1% to 43.8% of the total population.
Now, two decades later, the ‘Protestant and other Christian’ category has dropped to 43.5%, while Catholics have risen to 45.7%.
Speaking on the census as well as Sinn Fein’s resurgence, Kyle said to the BBC’s Sunday Politics show: “These are all inter-related aspects of the debate, but actually that crucial aspect of when there is a clear majority, which is what was set out in the Good Friday Agreement, that is a different thing altogether.
“If the circumstances emerge as set out in the Good Friday Agreement, I as Secretary of State would not play games. I would call the border poll.
“But these are issues that, when you look at the direct needs in Northern Ireland right now, we have a cost-of-living crisis, there is a crisis in public services in Northern Ireland, the longest waiting lists for treatment in the NHS – this is what we’ve got to get on with now.
“So constitutional issues are important, but don’t pretend that it is a distraction from the real issues.”
What this would mean for the care sector remains to be seen, but one major change would potentially be the disbanding of Northern Ireland’s RQIA and the introduction of the HIQA north of the border.