Sinn Féin’s campaign for a border poll is to intensify next year, party president Gerry Adams has said.
Mr Adams said nationalist ambitions for Irish unity had been boosted by the decision to hold a referendum on Scottish independence in two years.
“This is a live issue at this time and has been given added impetus by the recent decision to hold a referendum in 2014 on Scottish independence,” he said.
“The Good Friday Agreement provides for a border poll on Irish unity. Sinn Féin, in the new year, will commence a campaign to achieve this. That means we need to build momentum and support so that the Irish and British governments are persuaded to hold a border poll.
“We will then have to campaign for a ‘yes’ vote and to persuade the people of the island of Ireland to support unity and the creation of a new Republic.”
Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the British Direct Ruler can call a border poll. However, it can only be called once every seven years. In his address to an audience in New York, Mr Adams said Sinn Féin would have to persuade people on both sides of the border of the benefits of unification.
He also urged Irish Americans to use their influence, adding: “Irish America needs to persuade political opinion in America that a united Ireland is in the best strategic interests of the USA.
“Irish America needs to get your new President and Secretary of State and the USA to use your enormous influence with the British to move them in that direction also.
“And we need Irish America to support the holding of a border poll.”
DUP MP Nigel Dodds said unionists were not concerned about the likelihood of a new border poll being held. He said: “Even if by some miracle Gerry Adams were able to persuade Americans that the future of Cork is of greater strategic interest to the USA than the future of Chicago or even China, the decision on a border poll would not actually be affected.
“A border poll can only be called by the Secretary of State when there is likely to be a vote in favour of changing our constitutional status. The DUP is not concerned about the likelihood of such a poll being held, nor are we worried about what the outcome would be. All recent evidence actually points to a strengthening of support for the maintenance of Northern Ireland’s position within the UK.
“The only people who cling to the notion of a border poll are Sinn Féin and a few gullible commentators who claim it would somehow bring stability.”
But Mr Adams said the Irish diaspora had “a role to play and a contribution to make” on the question, as well as in the Dublin government’s planned Constitutional Convention.
“Regrettably the Taoiseach is only committed to minimalist reform. When I raised this with him, and in particular the right of citizens with Irish passports living abroad to have the vote in presidential elections, he shied away from giving a meaningful role to the diaspora in the Constitutional Convention.
“This is not acceptable.
“But Sinn Féin has succeeded in getting votes for Irish passport holders on to the agenda of the convention. So you need to make your voice heard on this.
“This generation of republicans is laying the foundations for a New Republic -- a new Ireland with social justice and equality at its core.
“I believe we can achieve that new Ireland, that we can unite all of the people of the island of Ireland, and end past divisions and resolve outstanding differences.”