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10 August 2017

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‘Neither naïve or insensitive about unionist unease on Irish unity’ – Michelle O’Neill

Sinn Féin is committed to building on the reconciliation efforts of Martin McGuinness

MICHELLE O’NEILL has told a Féile an Phobail audience that she is committed to building on the reconciliation efforts of Martin McGuinness “but I am neither naïve or insensitive about unionist unease about Irish unity”.

The Sinn Féin leader in the North reminded people that the Good Friday Agreement guarantees the right of citizens in the North to hold both British and Irish citizenship.

“So constitutional change can be achieved without sacrificing identity or citizenship.”

She was speaking at Féile an Phobail’s ‘Imagining a New Ireland’ debate in St Mary’s College, west Belfast.

She said that her vision of a united Ireland is an inclusive and agreed Ireland, one in which all identities are respected and all rights are respected.

“I want to see an Ireland that is defined by hope, and prosperity and opportunity for all citizens irrespective of their age, religion, cultural identity, political affiliation, ethnic origin or sexuality.

“But I am neither naïve or insensitive about unionist unease regarding Irish unity.”

She said she sees her role as a Sinn Féin leader to promote the merits, political, economic and social of a new, agreed and united Ireland.

McG Reconciliation doc launch Nov 2016

“I am committed to building on the reconciliation efforts of Martin McGuinness.

“The Good Friday Agreement guarantees the right of citizens in the north to hold both British and Irish citizenship.

So constitutional change can be achieved without sacrificing identity or citizenship.

“For me, upholding, protecting and respecting the rights of all citizens must define a new, agreed and united Ireland.

That means upholding the rights of citizens to be British and unionist.”

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Michelle O’Neill said partition has failed and the Tory Government’s Brexit agenda has brought the prospect of Irish unity into sharper focus.

“Now is the time to talk about Irish unity,” she insisted.

“Partition has failed but some argue the time is not right to talk about unity. I say to them now is the time. Now is the time to plan for unity, to build support for unity, to challenge division and build an Ireland for all.”

The prospect of a Tory Brexit has brought the debate on partition and the prospect of Irish unity into sharper focus, the Mid Ulster Assembly member said.

“The Brexit referendum result has swept away many of the previous political assumptions about the constitutional, political and economic status quo of the North.

“Brexit undermines the constitutional, institutional and political framework of the Good Friday Agreement.”

She said that Sinn Féin is arguing the case for the North to be ‘Designated Special Status Within the EU’ and special provisions to allow the North to seamlessly resume full status within the EU in the aftermath of a successful Irish unity referendum.”

Michelle O’Neill said there is an onus on the Irish Government to prepare for Irish unity and it is clear that a united Ireland will have positive economic benefits for the island as a whole.

Dr Kurt Hübner (Professor of European Studies and the Jean Monnet Chair at the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia in Canada) has argued that unification would result in a sizeable economic boost in all-island GDP of €36.5billion over eight years.

“So now is the time for the Irish Government to become a persuader for Irish unity,” the Sinn Féin figure said.

Political leaders in Dublin should begin preparations for Irish unity and develop an all-party group to bring forward a Green Paper for Unity along with a ‘United Ireland Investment and Prosperity Plan’. 

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