Irish Republican News · November 2, 2005
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Debate on Irish Unity
The full contribution of Sinn Fein Dail leader, Caoimhghin O Caolain TD to Private Members Business motion on Irish reunification on Wednesday.


Molaim an run seo ar son Teachtai Shinn Fein. Is annamh a bhi deis ag an Dail aontu na hEireann a phle. Ni chuimhin liom diospoireacht ar an gceist seo onar toghadh me i 1997. Ce gur phleamar proiseas na siochana go minic ni raibh deis chun diriu ar an gha chun obair i dtreo aontu na hEireann. Mar sin cuireann se athas orainn, mar Teachtai Shinn Fein, an run seo a chur os comhair na Dala agus chun iarraidh ar gach Teachta tacu leis. Ach ni run amhain ata anseo. Seo fogra chomh maith go bhfuilimid chun dul ar aghaidh go dti an cuspoir sin i gcuideachta gach duine sa tir a bhfuil an cuspoir daonlathach aige no aici.

It is an honour to present this motion on behalf of the Sinn Fein deputies. It is a motion that encapsulates the central aim of our party - but more importantly, I believe, the sincerely held objective of the vast majority of the people of Ireland. The democratic objective of the reunification of Ireland is reflected - to one degree or another - in all political parties represented here in the Oireachtas. All the principal political parties state that Irish unity is one of their aims. But it must be more than an aspiration and an objective, however sincerely held. If we are serious and sincere we must work together towards Irish unity. This motion is an invitation to do just that.

We have debated the peace process many times but we have not taken the opportunity to address the issue of Irish unity itself. Our motion presents such an opportunity.

This debate comes in the wake of the momentous decision of the IRA to end its armed campaign and to put its weapons beyond use. I don't believe any of us yet appreciates the enormity of this development. It will take time for it to be seen in its proper historical context. It marked a crossroads not only in the peace process but in the development of politics on this island. It confirmed what the peace process had established - that Irish republicans are totally committed to the peaceful and democratic way forward to our objective of Irish unity and national sovereignty.

The immediate task before all of us is the re-instatement of the structures established under the Good Friday Agreement. That is the responsibility first and foremost of the British and Irish governments. On the part of the DUP there can be no more possible excuses for non-engagement with Sinn Fein. The excuse of IRA weapons is no longer tenable; indeed the hollowness of that excuse as used so often in the past has been exposed since the IRA's announcement and its putting of weapons beyond use. Those who seek to minimise the significance of developments this past summer, and the potential for progress which they offer, are doing a grave disservice to their constituents. However, I believe the DUP will enter negotiations with Sinn Fein. One thing is certain. Whittling down the Agreement, failing to implement it or abandoning the legitimate political objective of Irish unity will not encourage dialogue. On the contrary, it will reinforce intransigence.

Sinn Fein has tabled this motion, and we are urging the Irish Government to publish a Green Paper on Irish Unity, because we believe that the practical planning for a United Ireland should begin now.

Throughout the peace process we have consistently urged an island-wide approach in key policy areas including the economy, health, education, employment, agriculture and tourism. We have given practical expression to this through the work of our Ministers in the Executive and the all-Ireland Ministerial Council. In the Assembly and in the Dail, Sinn Fein representatives have continuously pressed the need to sustain and develop the all-island approach enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement.

By planning for Irish unity, and by demonstrating that unification can lead to a better society for all the people of this island, nationalists will go far towards persuading many unionists that they can have a secure future in a new, united Ireland.

We should be strengthening and building upon the all-Ireland aspects of the Agreement. The Irish Government should be initiating and sustaining a planned programme of all-Ireland social and economic development which aims to remove the obstacles created by partition, strengthen the links between the people in all parts of the island and integrate the economy and society. Such work should proceed at all levels and the Irish Government should not be dependent upon the active co-operation of any British administration, although such co-operation is not only desirable but an obligation of the British government under the Agreement.

Central to the Good Friday Agreement is an equality agenda which seeks to address many of these injustices. It cannot be stressed enough that equality applies to everyone. It will benefit all sections of the community. The attempt to portray the equality agenda as meaning privilege for nationalists is the latest manifestation of the sectarian scare tactic designed to prevent unionists making common cause at any level with their nationalist neighbours.

Unionists need to embrace the equality agenda. There is no other way forward for their community. Refusal to do so can slow down but cannot halt the process of change. Participation now in the process of change is the best guarantee that their interests will be represented most effectively. Many in the unionist community already privately admit that Irish unity is inevitable. Recognition that this process of change is leading to Irish Unity will be a very painful but ultimately liberating development for unionists.

Nationalists throughout Ireland also need to come to terms with the reality that the achievement of their aim of Irish reunification will mean profound change. The whole political landscape will be transformed. New political alignments will evolve. New island-wide economics will develop. There will be new demands on the economy to meet the needs of a reunited island and people. There will be many challenges but also many opportunities.

Every Deputy and Senator has received a copy of Sinn Fein's discussion document 'A Green Paper on Irish Unity'. In summary it sets out the following programme:

. There is a national responsibility on the Irish Government to formulate and implement a strategy to achieve the democratic objectives of national self-determination, Irish reunification, political independence and national reconciliation

Consultation, engagement, persuasion and negotiation, with a view to securing active support for a united Ireland, must be the means towards these ends.

. It must involve a negotiation with the British Government.

. It must be underpinned by a meaningful and substantial peace dividend from both governments.

. Such a strategy needs to have an international dimension whichincludes seeking specific forms of support from popular and political opinion in Britain; the Irish diaspora and the international community.

. The Taoiseach should commission a Green Paper on Irish unity to be completed within one year.

The aim should be to identify steps and measures, which can promote and assist a successful transition to a united Ireland and to develop detailed planning for a new state and a new society that all Irish people can share. All stakeholders in society on this island must be given an opportunity to take ownership of the debate and be part of the process this initiates.

The Green Paper should be referred to a specially dedicated Joint All- Party Committee of the Oireachtas on Irish Unity to monitor, assess and report progress on implementation.

A Minister of State should be appointed by the Irish Government with the dedicated and specific responsibility of driving forward and developing policy options and strategies to advance the outcomes of the Green Paper and to direct and coordinate the Government's all-Ireland policies.

. Participation by people resident in the Six Counties in the democratic life of the nation should be facilitated and include Northern representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas. Citizens in the Six Counties should have voting rights in presidential Elections and for a reformed Seanad elected on a national list system.

. The Irish Government, in consultation with the social partners, the community and NGO sector, the business and agricultural sectors, the trade unions, must begin the process of co-ordinating economic planning on an all- Ireland basis.

I look forward to a serious debate on these proposals. I call on the Taoiseach to proceed with his invitation to the 18 MPs in the Six Counties to participate in a Committee of the whole Dail, beginning in early 2006 and to be held at least twice a year. The knee-jerk and partitionist reactions to this reasonable and modest proposal from the leaders of Fine Gael and Labour surely raise profound questions for the members of these two parties, one of which subtitles itself 'the United Ireland Party' and the other which claims the mantle of James Connolly. And I would ask Fianna Fail deputies and party members if they will allow this proposal to be vetoed by Minister McDowell who has called for Irish Republican MPs, elected on the basis of non- participation in Westminster, to take their seats there and to swear an oath of allegiance to the English queen.

I believe these nay-sayers have misrepresented the Irish people. We are mandated by them to work together for the benefit of this country - and that includes working together towards national reunification.

The type of society we will have in a united Ireland is already being shaped. We must ensure that it is not a 'cold house' for any section of our community. What Martin Luther King said about the world in 1967 applies equally to Ireland - and the world - in this new century:

"We have inherited a large house, a great 'world house' in which we have to live together - black and white, Easterner and Westerner, Gentile and Jew, Catholic and Protestant, Moslem and Hindu - a family unduly separated in ideas, culture and interest, who because we can never again live apart, must learn somehow to live with each other in peace."

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© 2005 Irish Republican News