Secretary of State Karen Bradley has said she is confident Northern Ireland will continue to be part of the UK, in response to comments made by Peter Robinson about a united Ireland.
The former DUP leader drew angry criticism from unionist politicians after suggesting preparations should be made for the possibility of a united Ireland.
Speaking at a summer school in Donegal at the weekend, Mr Robinson said: “I own my house – I don’t for one minute believe that it’s going to be burned down, but I still insure it …
“I don’t believe Northern Ireland will want to leave the United Kingdom.
“But if it does happen, then we would be in a terrible fix – because we would be in the same situation as leaving the European Union, where nothing had been negotiated and nothing had been decided about what was going to happen thereafter.”
During a visit to Londonderry on Monday, the Secretary of State said: “My position is that I am confident that Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom will continue, because we will continue to make being part of the United Kingdom something the people of Northern Ireland want.”
Ulster Unionist Party chairman Lord Empey accused Mr Robinson of becoming “a Sinn Féin echo chamber” in the wake of his comments.
He added that the comments would be “music to the ears” of the Irish government and Irish republicans in general.
“Peter Robinson is playing into the hands of our country’s opponents,” Lord Empey said.
DUP MP Sammy Wilson also criticised his former party leader’s comments.
He said: “Preparing for a possible united Ireland is not an insurance policy against something unpleasant happening.
“It is an invitation to republican arsonists to come in and burn our house down.”