Debate takes place on unity referendum

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A debate about an Irish unity referendum/border poll has brought together speakers representing Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Socialist Party, the 1916 Societies and the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum.

Themed the ‘Road to Referendum’, the event took place in Strabane on Thursday and was organised by the ‘Yes for Unity’ campaign, which has links to the IRSP.

The IRSP was represented by Belfast based member Ciaran Cunningham while Strabane Sinn Fein councillor Brian McMahon spoke on behalf of his party. Well-known Tyrone republican Tommy McKearney, representing the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, and Sean Bresnahan from the 1916 societies were also involved.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, only the British Direct Ruler can trigger a ‘border poll’ - a Six County referendum on the future of the north.

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum result calls for some kind of an Irish unity poll have continued to grow, including calls for a Six County and/or a 32 County vote.

‘Yes for Unity’ spokesman Michael McLaughlin, who chaired Thursday’s event, said it was important.

“It’s the first time since the Armagh H-Block campaign and hunger strike that the IRSP and Sinn Fein have shared a common platform,” he said.

“We believe it is a sign of the times that although political differences exist that republicans do have the capacity to come into a room and talk to each other out of necessity.”

Sinn Fein’s Brian McMahon said any debate on Irish unity has to be a positive one.

“This is the time and the place that we should have this discussion.”

Mr McMahon said his party has been discussing the issue for years, and that meetings to discuss the unity vote issue have taken place within the Irish diaspora as far away as San Francisco and New York.

Sean Bresnahan of the 1916 Societies noted that its involvement in the project was to promote a 32 County, All Ireland Referendum.

“The Societies’ key focus has always has been to create a fully democratic unitary state on this island,” he said.

“Our aim is to highlight and confront the democratic deficit that exists in Ireland.

“None this is to undermine the good work of the IRSP in their pragmatic approach to the National Question. Most Republicans abide by similar tactics. It should be recognised that a Border Poll is a dilution of Irish citizens’ rights, though in the present conditions it could be utilised as a mechanism to bring sovereignty back into hands of the people of this island.”

A simulated border poll organised by the ‘Yes for Unity’ campaign is set to take place in the Strabane and Lifford areas.

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