Irish Republican News · April 25, 2011
[Irish Republican News]

[Irish Republican News]
Unity referendum subject to GFA - Sinn Fein

With all of the mainstream political parties unanimous on three key issues -- the need to defeat dissident republicanism, safeguard the Six-County political institutions and oppose cuts to the British subvention -- only the call for an all-island referendum has caused a stir in the Assembly election campaign.

At the launch of its manifesto, Sinn Fein said it would be actively pursuing closer ties between the 26-County and Six-County states during the next four years.

It said a referendum on a united Ireland would intime deliver the result republicans havelong campaigned for.

Speaking on BBC radio, Sinn Fein’s north Antrim assembly member John O’Dowd said “the people of Ireland have a right to choose their own destiny. That is my view.”

He added: “Surely the people who live on the island of Ireland have a right to decide the destiny of what political future and make-up the island of Ireland has.”

Unionists said this appeared to conflict with the the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which requires the consent of the [unionist] majority in the Six Counties.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, a ‘border poll’ to establish whether the majority of people in the north want reunification can also only take place if permitted by the British government.

Mr O’Dowd later clarified his comments to accept what he said were the constraints of the Good Friday Agreement on Irish self-determination.

“Ideally we would like to see an all-Ireland referendum, he said.

“Every citizen should be equal and so that is Sinn Fein’s preferred position. But we will work within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement.”

The SDLP has also said it is to push for a referendum on Irish unity within the next four years as part of its assembly election pledges. In the SDLP’s plan the assembly would stay as a regional parliament of a united Ireland but the British government would retain a say inthe north.

However, O’Dowd’s has been the only out-of-the-ordinary statement so far in what has been a lethargic election campaign by Six-County standards. The election takes place on Thursday, May 5th, alongside local council elections, as well as a little-understood referendum on the British electoral system.


A televised election debate took place on Friday, with the DUP’s Robinson and Sinn Fein’s McGuinness joining forces to counter sniping by the (nationalist) SDLP’s Ritchie and the Ulster Unionist Party’s Tom Elliott over what Elliott complained was a “carve up” of power by the Office of the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

There had been some tension earlier in the week between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the respective roles of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister in the Six-County administration.

SPeaking at the launch of Sinn Fein’s manifesto, Gerry Adams challenged the DUP’s assertion that Robinson’s role as First Minister made him the ‘senior partner’ at the head of the Stormont Executive.

Describing Martin McGuinness as an “inspirational” leader in the North, Adams dismissed Robinson’s words as a scare tactic.

“First of all, we have to spell out again, the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister - they’re like Siamese twins,” Mr Adams said.

“They are co-equal positions with exactly the same power and authority as the other.

“It is an attempt to scare and galvanise unionist votes”.

He acknowledged that the position of first minister was one of symbolic significance and for his party to capture it 13 years after the Good Friday Agreement would be an achievement.

However, Mr Adams said such matters were of little interest to people who were unemployed or in need of health services.

“I simply see this as a tactic by theDUP to try and galvanise unionist support for their position, based upon this negative,” Mr Adams said.

“Politics has to be about positivity. Politics has to be about hope. Politics has to be about the future. So we’ll focus on the real issues.”

Mr Adams said Sinn Fein will also require the British government to allow independent, international access to all original documents relating to collusion in deaths during the conflict.

It will also seek an “independent, international truth-recovery process”, rubber-stamped by the UN or a similar body.

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© 2011 Irish Republican News