Irish Republican News · March 22, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]

Dublin refuses Green Paper on Irish Unity

The Dublin government has rejected calls for a discussion document on its policy for Irish unity.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern, who was speaking in support of Sinn Fein’s nationalist rivals, the SDLP, said the proposed Green Paper was “a red herring” and that nationalists should be content with an “aspiration for a united Ireland”.

“I don’t believe a Green Paper would be a relevant document. It’s a red herring,” he said of the Sinn Fein proposal.

“Those who are calling for a green paper are doing it to distract from getting the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement up and running again.

“People seem to think that a paper would be a panacea for all our ills. We already have a template for Irish unity in the form of the Good Friday Agreement which gives nationalists an aspiration for a united Ireland.”

Sinn Fein General Secretary Mitchel McLaughlin described Ahern’s remarks as “a bizarre comment from a senior representative of the largest republican party on the island”.

Mr McLaughlin said “a Green Paper on Irish unity is relevant, essential and long overdue.”

“Instead of running away from this issue there is a responsibility on the Irish government to take the lead and bring forward a strategy to achieve national self-determination, Irish re-unification and national reconciliation.

“However, Minister Ahern comments suggest that Irish unity is no longer even on the agenda of his party. If that is the case he should be honest enough to say so and not hide behind the crisis in the process.”

Mr Ahern had claimed the IRA was the main impasse to a united Ireland. “The IRA is the single biggest barrier to Irish unity,” he said.


Mr Ahern was speaking in Newry as the SDLP yesterday launched its proposals for achieving a united Ireland within the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

In the document, the SDLP has argued that a referendum on Irish unity in the Six Counties must be the first step towards a united Ireland.

Those favouring the union with Britain currently retain their built-in majority in the Six County area created by the 1922 partition of Ireland. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement allows for border polls (Six-County referenda) every seven years, and many believe this unionist majority is slowly disappearing under demographic, political and cultural change.

An overwhelming majority on the island of Ireland favours reunification.

The SDLP argues that unionists would begin negotiations on a united Ireland following a border poll.

The party also wants to retain the Belfast Assembly within a united Ireland, an idea similar in many respects to the federal model proposed by Republican Sinn Fein.

In the paper ‘A United Ireland and the Agreement’, the SDLP argues that nationalism must embrace unionism more “not because the numbers tell us we must, but because our desire for a peaceful future on this island as equals and as partners tells us we should.”

Leader Mark Durkan said the party was now seeing agreement on the date for a referendum on a United Ireland - and that Sinn Fein, the DUP and UUP already supported holding a referendum.

But the paper also admitted winning a referendum would be much more difficult “if voters know nothing of how they will be governed afterwards”.

The proposals mark the opening of the SDLP’s formal campaign for the Westminster General Election, expected to be announced in the next few weeks.

Commenting on the proposals, Sinn Fein’s Mitchel McLaughlin said that the apparent shift by the SDLP from the politics of “post nationalism” to the politics of Irish Unity was welcome. But he added: “The Sinn Fein demand for Irish Independence and Unity has always been up front and clear. The same cannot be said of the SDLP.”

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© 2005 Irish Republican News