Sinn Fein renews focus on Irish unity
Sinn Fein renews focus on Irish unity


Sinn Fein has published a discussion document, ‘Towards a United Ireland’, to lay out the rationale for reunification in terms of the economy, public services and reconciliation.

The party says it has a vision of a new Ireland which would be built on the principles of equality and inclusion. It would require a new constitution and Bill of Rights and a discussion on symbols and emblems to reflect an inclusive Ireland, the safeguarding of British citizenship and recognition of the unionist identity.

The party also said that a constitutional model other than a single unitary state might be needed to ensure the highest democratic standards and safeguards.

Speaking at the launch of the document, deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald (pictured, centre) said the party wanted to stimulate debate on the matter. She said that she would be open to discussions on Ireland joining the British Commonwealth if unionists were to compromise on reunification.

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy (pictured, right) said he would like to see a referendum in the next political term, adding later it could be within two years.

On the cost of reunification Mr Carthy said the departments of finance north and south should carry out an analysis. The Six County Minister for Finance Mairtin O Muilleoir (pictured, left), who also attended the event, said reunification would mean a benefit of 35 billion pounds between now and 2025.

According to the document, the issue of affordability has been subject to “wild speculation”. It criticised the British government for refusing “to fully open the books” as to what the North costs the British exchequer.

Calling it the “unaffordability myth”, Sinn Fein challenged the 24 billion pounds figure some commentators claim is spent by the Britain on the North, and put public spending in the 18 to 20 billion pounds range, with revenue generated within the North around 15 billion pounds, a far smaller and more affordable shortfall.

Sinn Fein said “over-estimates of the North’s fiscal deficit are a political ploy aimed at closing down any debate on Irish unity”. It estimated that the actual annual deficit is between 2.7 billion pounds and 5.1 billion pounds.

Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams, in a statement launching the document, asked: “Would anybody with the benefit of hindsight, propose the partition of Ireland as a measure to resolve conflict, build a prosperous and fair society or to reconcile people?

“Partition is a failure. A miserable divisive failure. It created decades of economic decline in the north and in the south, including forced emigration.

“Partition broke essential trade links across the island, sustained decades of conflict and injustice and established two conservative elites north and south. The lack of equality and plurality in politics led to unjust governance and discrimination. The revolutionary social, economic, and cultural promise of 1916 was replaced by a conservative counter revolution. During the years of conflict, raising unity was dismissed by some as tacit support for armed struggle. The conflict is over.”

A Sinn Fein spokesperson also called for a united soccer team. “Irish sports teams are stronger and better when they are all-Ireland teams,” they said. “Look at the success of our rugby teams and golfers. As an all-Ireland organisation the GAA is unmatched by any other sports organisation. Support for an all-Ireland soccer team is growing. We are stronger and more successful together.”

Mr Adams pointed out that the Taoiseach had addressed the possibility of a referendum on Irish unity, and that the the Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin had acknowledged that the Brexit vote means that the north should have a special status within the European Union.

“When the issue of reunification is raised in the Dail, as it is regularly by Sinn Fein, the response is that now is not the time to talk about this. The closing down of the debate on unity is akin to saying that we cannot talk about the future,” he said.

“The imposition of Brexit, despite the vote of the people in the north, underlines the undemocratic nature of partition and the unequal relationship between London and Belfast.

“The future constitutional position of the north lies in the hands of the people of the north and of the south. The Good Friday Agreement obliges the Irish and British governments to legislate for unity if that is the choice of the people north and south. So now is the time to look to the future. We can redefine the relationships across the island and between Ireland and Britain. This is an exciting time when we can create a new Ireland.”

The Sinn Fein leader argued that greater plurality and inclusion in the political process would “radically change the current political status quo” and act as a challenge for all parties, but that there was a particular onus on the Dublin government to begin to plan for unity by drafting a green paper on the issue.

He said Dublin needed to “become a persuader for unity” to drive the process and build the maximum agreement and to secure and win a border poll.

“Brexit has demonstrated again the failure of partition. Now is the time to look to the future and to talk about, to plan and to deliver a new and united Ireland,” he said.

“Sinn Fein will be flexible on the shape of the united Ireland. The people of this island have the opportunity, not afforded to many generations, to build a new Ireland.”

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