A referendum on a United Ireland is inevitable in the near future according to Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams.

The Louth deputy believes voters on both sides of the border will be asked to vote on the contentious issue.

The Press Association has reported the comments made by Adams in response to Owen Patterson, the Northern Ireland secretary of State.

Patterson said last week that he had: “No intention of calling a poll at this time and have not been asked to do so.”

Adams has pointed out that the Good Friday peace agreement includes a provision for a poll should there be sufficient demand.

Patterson’s office has claimed that his position is in keeping with the agreement but Adams has hit back at the British politician and his stance.

“A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing,” said Sinn Fein leader Adams.

“By definition that will come when the people of our island have formed a cordial union of Catholic, Protestant and dissenter.

“When a border poll is held Owen Patterson will have no vote on that issue. That is as it should be, entirely a matter for the people of Ireland.”

Speaking ahead of a party meeting in County Derry, Adams added: “The political landscape in the North has been transformed in recent years and there is growing support for a united Ireland.

“A border poll is inevitable. Mr Patterson knows this. It is only a matter of timing. The united Ireland that Sinn Fein seeks is inclusive.

“All elements of society on the island of Ireland must be comfortable and secure in the system of governance that is agreed.”