North's finance minister calls for a united Ireland

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir believes economic partition isn't working on either side of the border...

North's finance minister calls for a united Ireland

Picture by Niall Carson PA Archive/PA Images

Northern Ireland's Minister for Finance has called for serious discussions about the reunification of Ireland to begin.

Máirtín Ó Muilleoir has argued that the UK's decision to leave the EU has highlighted the potential future dangers of partition in Ireland. He feels that the current divide is holding back economic progress on both sides of the border and that an all-island economy would be mutually beneficial.

"I think Brexit has thrown up, and put in stark relief, the dangers of partition," he said.

"We really need to have a solution to the Brexit issue which serves everyone on the island. And, of course, if the North is forced out of Europe, that will not only lead to a recession – and that's what the experts say in Britain – but that recession will be longer and harder in the North. Of course it's also true that that will affect the rest of the island."

Economic growth in the Republic is forecast to be 3.6% for 2017 but just over 1% in the North.

Ó Muilleoir, a Sinn Féin MLA for south Belfast who took on the finance ministry in the Northern Ireland Executive in May, now wants an open dialogue to commence:

"What I'm arguing for is a fresh look at the entire island of Ireland as an economic unit.

"If you think of partition, it's very clear it has not served either part of the island well. If you're in the border counties, you're on the periphery of two economies... I strongly believe that our future would be much brighter if we had a united Ireland and, of course, one economy."