Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and Sinn Fein leader, Martin McGuinness has warned against politicians in the province involving themselves in the debate over Scottish independence, warning that it was “an issue that could be used to create divisions” in the power-sharing devolved government.
According to an account by Northern Ireland political blogger Chris Donnelly, who blogs at the Slugger O’Toole website, McGuinness told the Stormont assembly yesterday: “This is an issue which could be used to create divisions in this house or even in our Executive or even between the First Minister and myself.
“I think all of us should resist the temptation to be drawn into something that will be decided elsewhere.
“We have our own duties and responsibilities, we have our own agreements stretching back to 1998, the St. Andrews Agreement, the Hillsborough Agreements and I think we abide by the agreements we have made and get on with our duties and responsibilites.
“What happens elsewhere has to be a matter primarily for the people concerned and my attitude to it is we would be best advised to stay clear of it.”
The warning comes days after similar comments from McGuinness’ former counterpart and retired Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley, who wrote in a local newspaper column that Scots “probably would greatly appreciate it if we left them alone to make their own decision.”
McGuinness and Paisley’s agreement on staying out of the Scottish independence debate follows calls from the current leadership of Northern Ireland’s unionist parties for unionists to make their voices heard on the issue.
Speaking at the British-Irish Council summit in Dublin two weeks ago, Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader, Peter Robinson said: “While we recognise that clearly this must be a decision for the people of Scotland to take on their own, it has clear implications for the rest of the United Kingdom.
“I speak as a unionist, but also as an Ulster Scot, and clearly I have a massive interest in what happens and what decision the people of Scotland will take.
“Our peoples have moved from one side of that small stretch of water to the other and back again many times over the centuries.
“So we have a massive interest and I don’t think we can sit idly by and simply indicate that it’s a matter for Scotland – it will have implications for us all.”
Robinson added: “We hope that Scotland will know just how much we want Edinburgh to remain within the United Kingdom.”
The leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) Tom Elliot has also expressed strong views on Scottish independence, writing in a column for the Belfast Telegraph: “The Ulster Unionist Party is adamant about the benefits of the Union and is unashamed about its promotion of the Union.
“This is a time for us all, as unionists together, to support a continuance of a strong United Kingdom.”
Other senior party figures have echoes Elliot’s comments, with former UUP leader and peer Lord Taylor of Kilclooney writing to the Scotsman inviting regions of Scotland with large populations of resettled Scots-Irish to ‘repartition’ in the event of an affirmative independence referendum result.