Northern Ireland

Ruairi Quinn says border poll 'a distraction'

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Media captionRuairi Quinn said a border poll would be an unwelcome distraction

A former Irish cabinet minister has dismissed calls for a border poll.

Ruairi Quinn, a former education minister in the Republic of Ireland, said such a poll would be a distraction and is unwelcome at this time.

His comments came at the Labour Party conference in Manchester.

The issue of holding such a vote was raised during the traditional Ulster fry event attended by politicians and business leaders.

'More pressing matters'

During the meeting the Sinn Féin MP for West Belfast, Paul Maskey, said a border poll should be held following the Scottish referendum.

He told the BBC that a border poll would generate debate "round the TV stations and around the streets".

The call was dismissed by Mr Quinn. The Labour member of the Irish parliament said such a vote would be a distraction and said it "would simply confirm to us what we already know".

He said there were more pressing matters that should be considered in Northern Ireland.

Stephen Pound, the shadow minister for Northern Ireland, also said that a poll about the constitutional status was unnecessary. He said such a vote at this time was an "indulgence".

SDLP leader Alasdair McDonnell also attended the event in Manchester and he said the idea of a border poll was a distraction.

He said the parties could end up spending six months or a year on a campaign that would take them away from more pressing matters. He said a poll would be "unhelpful at this time".

'Exciting debate'

Last week after the Scottish referendum vote, which resulted in a No vote, First Minister Peter Robinson said that a border poll was unnecessary.

However, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the United Kingdom would "never be the same again".

He said a similar debate to the "exciting and enthralling" one in Scotland was possible.

The Good Friday Agreement gives Secretary of State Theresa Villiers the power to call a border poll.

However, Ms Villiers' office said last year she had no plans to call for such a referendum.

A border poll was last held in Northern Ireland in March 1973. It was largely boycotted by nationalists.