Mary Lou McDonald must have the 'longest arms in Ireland' if she thinks Irish unity is within touching distance, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson has told Pat Kenny.
Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has claimed Irish unity is within touching distance.
Speaking after a deal was agreed to restore power-sharing at Stormont, the Sinn Féin leader said the days of partition in Ireland are "numbered".
With Sinn Féin deputy leader Michelle O'Neill becoming the first-ever nationalist First Minister, Deputy McDonald said partition creates significant economic disadvantage in the North and a United Ireland was now within 'touching distance'.
On The Pat Kenny Show, DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson rejected the Sinn Féin leader's stance
"I don't think anyone with any credibility believes that this is the case," he said.
"There's nothing to suggest that there's been a significant shift in public opinion in Northern Ireland.
"All polling data points to a very strong majority in favour of remaining in the UK.
"Let's face it, Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland represent about 27%, 28% of the vote - that's a long way shy of a majority.
"Unless Mary Lou McDonald has the longest arms on this island, I don't think she's anywhere close to touching distance.
"Gerry Adams once predicted there would be a united Ireland by 2016, we're almost 10 years on from that and we're nowhere near a united Ireland."
"Unless Mary Lou McDonald has the longest arms on this island, I don't think she's anywhere near to touching distance." Jeffrey Donaldson does not believe we are nearing a united Ireland. @PatKennyNT pic.twitter.com/BbcfbVNkhl
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) February 7, 2024
'It's really smoke'
Mr Donaldson said he wants to see mutual cooperation on both sides of the border.
"I think there's so much that we can work on together, to cooperate on," he said.
"All this talk coming from Sinn Féin, one party, talking up a divisive border poll at a time when I think the people of Northern Ireland want to see their politicians working together.
"We're up for working with others to deliver a better future for everyone in Northern Ireland.
"I think all this talk of a border poll is just that; I think Sinn Féin are trying to up the ante.
"They're trying to reassure their base that the gains the DUP have made in this agreement that bind Northern Ireland more closely into the United Kingdom, it's really smoke to cover what they know and recognise the reality – that we're not moving closer to a united Ireland," he added.
A 2021 UK poll found a majority of those surveyed in Northern Ireland supported a referendum.
The poll, carried out for Britain's Sunday Times, found that 51% of 2,392 people surveyed in the region supported a referendum in the next five years.
Some 44% of people were opposed and 5% had no opinion.