Writing in his weekly column in the Belfast Media Group and on his blogsite (www.leargas.blogspot.com) Gerry Adams TD expresses his confidence that there will be a referendum on Irish Unity and calls on the Irish government to open up the consultation needed to plan for Irish Unity.
The Louth TD says:
· The debate about the future, about a new Ireland and the demand for a referendum on Unity is growing.
· demographic and political changes in northern society are also playing an important role in encouraging this debate.
· … the 2011 census – which for the first time asked citizens about their political identity – revealed that less than half (48%) identified as British.
· A report published in May – Sectarianism in Northern Ireland: A Review by Prof. Duncan Morrow examined the North’s changing demographics. It said: “There is a clear statistical trend towards a change in the religious minority-majority structure of Northern Ireland”.
· In the 2017 Assembly election unionist parties lost their majority for the first time since partition.
· In the European election the combined nationalist vote was greater than that of the unionist parties, and only one unionist MEP was elected.
· In the local government elections the total number of Unionist Councillors elected (206), from all of the Unionist parties, was less than 50% of the total number of Councillors for the North.
· a Red C exit poll on May 24th in the South indicated that 65% of voters would vote in favour of a United Ireland if a referendum was held the following day.
· That same weekend Eileen Paisley said of partition; “perhaps that was a wrong division.”
· Writing in the Irish Times last Friday Alex Kane, a former director of communications for the Ulster Unionist party acknowledged that there will be a “border poll” and that “unionism needs to be ready for that eventuality.”
Gerry Adams writes that rhetoric from southern parties is not enough and he sets out some of the issues that need to be part of a debate:
“Sinn Féin may be the most vocal United Ireland party but we are not the only one. Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party have dusted down their uniting Ireland positions. Some republicans may dismiss that as rhetoric from these parties. That misses the point. Of course it’s rhetoric. But it is also popular, so the Taoiseach and the Fianna Fáil leader will continue with it. Our task is to get them to move beyond the rhetoric. To follow the logic of their utterances. To move from platitudes to planning. Others too must be encouraged to engage in this necessary work if the questions that everyone is asking are to be answered.
Rhetoric is not enough. The Irish Government has a duty to plan for unity. There is a constitutional imperative on Dublin ‘to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland’. This cannot be accomplished without a plan. Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald TD has called on the Irish Government to establish a Forum for Unity, to build for unity and plan for unity.
The Irish government needs to open up consultations on how this might be done.
· It needs to consult – to ask what kind of united Ireland do we all want?
· There needs to be a process of dialogue.
· What shape should that dialogue take?
· There needs to be a transition phase after a referendum which votes for unity.
· What form and how long should that transition take?
“This needs to be planned now. Not after the referendum. That is the one big lesson of Brexit. A referendum without a plan is stupid. So, a referendum on unity must be set in a thoughtful inclusive process which sets out a programme of sustainable options. Including phases of transition.
“What accommodations are needed to persuade political unionism that a United Ireland can work for it? Key to this is the need for it to be an agreed shared Ireland. What happens to the political institutions established by the Good Friday Agreement?
“Winning support for a United Ireland is not just about persuading unionists although that is crucial. Everyone needs to be convinced of the advantages of unity – personal, economic, wages, health provision, environmental, cultural, peace, prosperity.
“There will be a referendum on Irish Unity. I am confident of this. Winning that referendum is the biggest single challenge facing United Irelanders.”