With the prospects of Irish reunification appearing to grow in the aftermath of the Brexit referendum, some elements within the 26 County establishment have become increasingly nervous. Some reactionaries have already called for the Good Friday peace Agreement to be rewritten in the context of Britain’s departure from the European Union.
Last week, the former 26 County diplomatic figure Sean Donlon (left) said reunification should only take place with the support of unionists, without seeing any inherent contradiction. Irish Times commentator Fintan O’Toole (right) this week also sought to move the goalposts, demanding a higher but unspecified target beyond the requirement of a simple majority for unification as outlined in the Good Friday Agreement.
The response comes amid efforts by Sinn Fein to encourage the establishment parties to develop a coordinated approach on the issue. Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly called on all nationalist parties across the island to work together to deliver a united Ireland.
Delivering a speech in Ballina, County Mayo to commemorate the 1981 hunger strikes, Mr Kelly outlined his party’s vision of a “new, agreed and United Ireland, upholding, protecting and respecting the rights of all citizens” that would also uphold “the rights of citizens to be British and Unionist”.
Speculation has grown that there is a growing belief in Fianna Fail they the party should be open to a coalition government with Sinn Fein. Last week, Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams said his party is “open to negotiating with other parties to deliver a republican programme of government”.
Mr Kelly threw dont the gauntlet to all the other parties in Ireland.
“I challenge the leaders of the SDLP, Fine Gael, and Fianna Fail to stop hiding behind the mantra of now is not the time to discuss unity,” he said.
“One hundred years on since 1916, as we face into Brexit, now is the time not only to discuss unity, but to plan and deliver Irish Unity.”
“So Leo [Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar], Colm [SDLP leader Colm Eastwood] and Micheal [Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin], this is the time put aside your narrow party political interests, the time for national leadership, the time to stand together to plan and deliver Irish unity.
“That is the project that can define the coming political era. Sinn Fein is willing to stand with all those in favour of unity.”
The north Belfast representative added: “Sinn Fein wants an Ireland that is defined by hope, prosperity and opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their age, gender, religious persuasion, cultural identity, political affiliation, ethnic origin, or sexual orientation.”