Although some expressed doubts about the timing of a border poll on Irish unity, Leitrim's councillors unanimously backed a call for the Irish Government to press the British Government to facilitate a referendum on this issue “within 12 months.”
Following the vote for Brexit, Sinn Féin councillor, Padraig Fallon put forward the motion which asked the Irish Government to press the British Government to facilitate a Border Poll on the possible reunification of both parts of the island of Ireland.
He said it now looked likely that Scotland would be seeking a second referendum on independence and “the same opportunity should be given to the six counties” in Northern Ireland, especially in light of the fact that the majority of people across the border voted to remain within the EU.
“We in Leitrim know what it is like to have a hard border and I think that a hard border should remain in the past and the only way to ensure that is to have no border at all,” he said.
His Sinn Féin colleagues rowed in behind his motion stating that it was ridiculous to have to separate governments on an island of this size with this small a population.
However Independent councillor, Des Guckian, said he felt the move to a referendum would be premature in light of the fact that Brexit wouldn't become a reality for at least two years.
He advised that councillors should “wait til the dust settles” on Brexit.
Fianna Fáil councillor Justin Warnock said he would like to support the motion but he, too, was concerned that the call was coming too soon.
“I would be fearful if the vote was held in the next 12 months it wouldn't be carried. I feel there should be more discussion at this point,” he said.
His party colleague, Cllr Sinead Guckian agreed stating she would have concerns about the early call for a referendum.
“We need to be focused on the implications of Brexit. We need to not confuse what we want with what we need at the moment,” she warned.
Cllr Paddy O'Rourke said that like his Fianna Fáil colleagues he would like to be in a position to support the motion but he felt moving too soon on seeking reunification of the 32 counties could result in a negative poll which would “set us back 20 years” in the move to reunification.
Fine Gael's Cllr John McCartin said that he shared the ambition of a united Ireland but also shared the concerns expressed by previous speakers on this issue.
“I wouldn't like the Chamber to defeat the motion,” he said, “ but I would ask Cllr Fallon to defer it for a little while to see whether Article 50 is triggered (in the UK as part of Brexit) or if any other things come into play like an election in Britain.
“Rather than vote against this I would ask you to kick it down the road for a bit.”
However Sinn Féin councillor, Seadhna Logan, said that this issue had “already been kicked down the road for long enough.”
Cllr Enda Stenson agreed with the suggestion that the motion be deferred for a period to see exactly what the fallout would be from Brexit.
“The worst thing would be for us to be divisive on this,” he said.
Cathaoirelach Cllr Mary Bohan said that the wish for a united Ireland was not merely the monopoly of one person or one party.
She pointed out that the peace process was a joint effort and it was important to remember this and asked Sinn Féin if this motion would be even more divisive for communities in the north, especially at this time of the year.
Cllr Sinead Guckian agreed saying sectarian problems were already quite high in the north without adding to this, although she said it was clear the Chamber was in agreement on the wish for a united Ireland.
Sinn Féin's Cllr Caroline Mulvey, said she fully supported Cllr Fallon's motion as it stood, a move agreed by Cllr Brendan Barry.
After initially considering putting the motion back to September, Cllr Fallon said he wanted it to stand before the current meeting.
The motion was subsequently carried.