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3 March 2005 Edition

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Campaign launched for a Green Paper on Irish unity

Mitchel McLaughlin, Gerry Adams, Caitríona Ruane and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin at the launch of the Green Paper campaign

Mitchel McLaughlin, Gerry Adams, Caitríona Ruane and Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin at the launch of the Green Paper campaign

Sinn Féin last Friday launched a campaign urging the Irish Government to bring forward a Green Paper and begin the practical planning for Irish unity now. This campaign, party President Gerry Adams pledged, would be the centrepiece of the party's centenary year.

At the launch, which took place in the Writers' Museum in Dublin, Adams was accompanied by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin TD, Councillor Joe Reilly, Caitríona Ruane MLA. Sinn Féin members and elected reps from across the island attended the launch, including Martin McGuinness MP, Conor Murphy MLA and Mitchel McLaughlin MLA.

"In 1992 Sinn Féin published a document, Towards a Lasting Peace in Ireland, which set out our party's peace strategy," Adams told the packed room. "That document signposted the development and evolution of the Peace Process.

"Now in 2005 we are setting out our roadmap for Irish unity and launching a campaign to urge the Irish Government to bring forward a Green Paper and to begin the practical planning for Irish unity now.

"These are difficult times in the peace process and of course our primary focus has to be on moving out of the current crisis. But we need to do more than that. We need to put the peace process back on track and ensure that what we achieve is democracy and a permanent peace.

"Sinn Féin believes that there is a responsibility on the Irish government to take the lead and bring forward a strategy to achieve national self-determination, Irish re-unification and national reconciliation.

"The British Government should address this democratic imperative by becoming persuaders for Irish unity and by developing policies to end partition and end its jurisdiction in Ireland.

"Now is the time for Irish people to engage on the shape, form and nature that a re-united Ireland will take.

"There is a need for widespread consultation at home and abroad.

"Every effort must be made to engage with unionist opinion and to consider, discuss and engage with them about the nature and form a new Ireland will take.

"We will be seeking support in every county in Ireland and among the Irish Diaspora. We will be engaging with political parties, the social partners, local communities, the churches, young people. We will be working to ensure that Irish unity is a reality in our lifetime."

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said that "today, Sinn Féin is extending an invitation to all those who share our heartfelt desire to achieve a united Ireland.

"We claim no monopoly on that demand — neither among the Irish people nor among Irish political parties. We want to commence a national and international process of planning for national re-unification. So many of us share the goal of ending Partition and building Irish unity and independence — so it is long past time for us to begin to plan for that re-unification in a systematic way."

This document, he said, "sets out some of the practical steps that we need to take".

"First and foremost, the Irish Government needs to transform the aspiration for Irish unity into a real goal and to work strategically towards that goal.

"As leader of the Sinn Féin TDs in the Dáil, I want to very briefly set out what we see as the responsibility of the Irish Government to take a lead in this project.

"We are urging the Taoiseach to commission a Green Paper on Irish Unity as the key starting point.

"All strands of opinion represented in the Oireachtas should be participants in this and that is why we want to see an All-Party Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity established.

"We are proposing that a Minister of State should be appointed by the Irish Government with the dedicated and specific responsibility of driving forward and developing policy options and strategies to advance the outcomes of the Green Paper and to direct and coordinate the Government's all-Ireland policies.

"Participation by people resident in the North in the democratic life of the nation should be facilitated through Northern representation in the Houses of the Oireachtas and voting rights in presidential elections.

"The Irish Government, in consultation with the social partners, the community sector and NGO sectors, should begin the process of co-ordinating economic planning on an all-Ireland basis.

"I emphasise that this project is not just about the achievement of Irish unity at some time in the future. It is about making a real difference to people's lives in the here and now. We need to see the integration of the island economy and the full co-ordination of public services like health and education and transport — maximising the benefits for everyone who shares this island.

"I want to invite the ordinary members and supporters of Fianna Fáil in particular to engage in this debate and to begin very seriously to assess how the stated aim of their party can be achieved. I invite them to borrow freely from our ideas. Sinn Féin has no copyright on the road map to Irish unity. I extend that invitation to the members of other political parties too. But most importantly this is an opportunity for people the length and breadth of this island to play their part in the great project of reuniting our country and our people."

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