Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams TD has said that Micheal Martin “needs to get serious about a United Ireland” following the Fianna Fail leader’s refusal to support the establishment of a parliamentary committee on Irish Unity.
The prospect of Irish reunification has advanced up the political agenda in Dublin in the wake of Britain’s decision to leave the EU and the increasing vote share for the nationalist parties in recent elections in the North.
The possibility that Ireland could have an all-island economy or be a united political entity by 2040 was discussed at a recent “off site” strategic planning meeting of the 26 County government, headed by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.
Mr Adams revealed this week that he had written to all party leaders seeking their support for the establishment of a parliamentary committee on Irish reunification. He said this would bring forward proposals on how a United Ireland might come about, and the steps the southern state needs to take to plan for unification.
He said the Fianna Fail leader had refused to support the committee.
“This is very disappointing. It shows that the Fianna Fail leader needs to get serious about a United Ireland,” he said. “The committee proposed by Sinn Fein would provide a forum where party political interests could be left at the door and where the idea of a broad consensus for Irish Unity could be nurtured.”
However, Martin lashed out at Adams and claimed Sinn Fein is trying to exploit Brexit for its own electoral advantage. He also warned the establishment of such a committee proposed by Sinn Fein would “send all the wrong signals to unionists”.
“I think if unionists see all of the parties in the Republic coming together minus them, it creates a certain impression. They would feel under threat immediately,” he remarked.
He claimed Fianna Fail is compiling its own proposals for how a united Ireland might operate, and said Sinn Fein should focus on restoring power-sharing at Stormont.
Mr Adams warned of the dangers of being unprepared for political change.
“The recent experience of the chaos in Britain, caused by the vote to leave the EU, shows that possibilities of large scale change need to be planned for in advance,” he said.
“Crucially, part of the work of the committee would be to put in place a vision for the future of the island that assures unionists of their place in a New Ireland.
“This has to be an agreed Ireland. It will not happen by accident,” he said.
Speaking at the MacGill summer school, Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald said Brexit had created a ‘constitutional earthquake’ and its aftershocks had exposed the fault lines of partition in Ireland.
The Dublin TD said the Border was now laid bare as the “false construct it has always been”, and that its contradictions must now be dealt with.
“Partition has failed the test of time. Yet some tell us that the time is not right to talk about unity. Now is the time to plan for unity, to build support for unity, to challenge division, and build an Ireland for all our people,” said Ms McDonald.
She said that recent elections had thrown up “real challenges” for unionism and in particular the DUP.
“Unionism lost its majority in the Assembly elections. Its mandate has fallen below the 50 per cent in the Westminster elections. This was never meant to happen,” she said.
“Unionism no longer dominates. If it wishes to be in power it will be only on the basis of powersharing and equality.”
Ms McDonald added that both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael support Irish unity “but criticise Sinn Fein for calling for a referendum on unity”.
She again called for a Border poll, and said that Sinn Fein wanted to “openly and respectfully engage with unionism in the discussion of a united future - we want to discuss ending partition with every section of Irish society”.