DUP MLA Tom Buchanan has agreed to take part in a public debate in Omagh over the potential for a united Ireland.
Organised by Sinn Féin MLA Barry McElduff, the event in the Strule Arts Centre on Saturday January 30 will feature a range of speakers from a unionist background, including independent unionist MLA John McCallister and Linda Ervine, the wife of former PUP leader Brian Ervine, who now works to promote the Irish language.
The debate has been organised by Sinn Féin as part of a series of events to coincide with the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
While DUP leader Arlene Foster has expressed reservations in attending some events linked to the Easter Rising centenary, her West Tyrone party colleague Tom Buchanan said he had “no difficulty” in accepting Barry McElduff’s invitation to take part in the debate.
“From a unionist perspective, from a DUP perspective, I have no difficulty in going anywhere and standing and putting forward the position that we hold, whether it is to do with a united Ireland or any other issue.”
Other members of the panel set to take part include leading economist Michael Burke, local solicitor Pat Fahy, and Irish language activist Sinéad Ní Mhearnóg.
Entitled ‘A United Ireland is inevitable – discuss’, Barry McElduff said the debate is aimed at stirring up a local debate on the merits or demerits of a united Ireland.
“Obviously I am partisan, but I think the debate needs to be had,” he said.
“I am particularly pleased that Tom Buchanan and John McCallister have agreed to participate,” continued Mr McElduff. “I want a complete debate, a thorough debate and I want an informed debate.
“I would encourage both unionists and republicans to attend the event and people who don’t hold an opinion either way to attend.”
‘FLOGGING A DEAD HORSE’
Speaking to the Ulster Herald, Tom Buchanan claimed Sinn Féin were “flogging a dead horse” on the issue of a united Ireland.
“The majority of nationalist people in Northern Ireland have clearly indicated that they are not in favour of a united Ireland,” he said.
“We all know the situation of the economy down south… There are no advantages economically or otherwise of entering into a united Ireland. It’s not going to happen.
“The message is clear, the handwriting is on the wall as far as Sinn Féin is concerned, that there is no prospect of a united Ireland.
“We are in 2016 and we are further away from a united Ireland than we ever were.”
The event, which is open to the public, takes place in the Strule Arts Centre this Saturday (January 30) from 9.30am.