We've Always been

Save

Save

Save

Save

Save

Sidebar

25
Sun, Aug

Tools
Typography

A speech in Ireland today, given by the leader of Sinn Fein, Mary Lou McDonald

Go raibh maith agaibh a chairde.

Táim lán-sásta bheith anseo libh i mBéal Feirste ar maidin.

Boris Johnson is now the British Prime Minister.

He is not my Prime Minister.

Nor were any of his predecessors.

In the week since a jingoistic and bullish Boris Johnson strode into Downing Street and appointed a staunchly Brexiteer Cabinet, there has been endless speculation about what it all means for Brexit; for the Good Friday Agreement; for the people of the north who voted to remain; for the relationship between the Irish and British governments, and much more.

Whatever one thinks of Boris Johnson, and his apparent desire to be the new Winston Churchill, it is a truism of the long tortured relationship between our two islands that every British Prime Minister has approached the issue of Ireland on the basis of British self-interest.

It is not about the needs, the priorities, the interests of the people who share this island, including unionists.

It’s about protecting and advancing British interests or in this case English interests.

Johnson in this respect will be no different than all the others.

He has repeated his determination to be out of the EU by October 31st.

He says he wants a new deal with Europe.

He has threatened to withhold Britain’s £39 billion divorce settlement and is demanding that the backstop be scrapped.

He has tried to bully the EU and Ireland. To accept less than the minimum of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Backstop.

The EU has said no – the withdrawal agreement is not up for renegotiation.

The British government cannot and will not intimidate the Irish government or the people who voted to remain. Those days are long gone. The Backstop is the minimum required to safeguard Irish Interests.

No one with a care for Ireland’s interest would consider renegotiating or reducing the minimum safeguards of the Backstop at the demand of Boris Johnston.

The British government is now threatening to reintroduce direct rule to get their way. In pursuit of Brexit they are threatening to bin the Good Friday Agreement and set the clock back.

This is unacceptable.

This represents a huge threat to the people – all the people of this island.

Stormont Talks
The Good Friday Agreement generation has come of age.

This generation is entitled to the opportunities gifted to those who came before; free healthcare and education and a home and fair pay.

They are also entitled to the rights, equality and respect that was denied to a previous generation.

Rights which are now available to citizens elsewhere in these islands but denied here in the North.

These are just and reasonable demands to make of any government north or south. This is the new Ireland that we are building.

It is the entitlement of all citizens to be treated with equality and respect. It is the expectation that government will operate to the highest standards.

The institutions in the north are not simply devolved institutions. They are premised on power-sharing and partnership.  

For over ten years Martin McGuinness acted to keep the institutions operating and delivering for all. He acted to promote reconciliation and respect for all.

At times he was met with provocation and duplicity; agreements made that were never honoured. The actions of both the British government and the DUP eroded public confidence in the institutions. Huge financial scandals such as RHI brought the institutions to an end.

Martin did not lightly walk away from the institutions. Those who accuse Martin or Sinn Féin of deliberately crashing the institutions are ignorant at best and malicious at worst.

Last Friday I called our negotiations team together with our national leadership. The report was clear; meetings have been held but little progress was made.

The outstanding issues remain the outstanding issues. They are not intractable and do not give any section of the community a win over another section of the community.

This is not a game in which a score is kept. Marriage equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters does not denigrate the rights of others to marry. Respecting the rights of Irish speakers does not diminish anyone’s sense of Britishness.

Resolving the past and promoting reconciliation is a threat to no one.

This round of talks to restore the power sharing government have thus far failed to achieve agreement.

This is because these key issues have not been faced up to yet.

The DUP are focusing on protecting the Union with Britain above all else regardless of the consequences for society, for the economy or for the people.

They are ignoring the anti-Brexit vote of the northern electorate.

Some DUP leaders see a hard border as the best way to maintain the Union. A new partition of Ireland.

This is folly and contradicts the search for agreement and restoration of the institutions.

The key issues – well known publicly and all rights based and for the benefit of everyone – must be resolved.

Sinn Féin wants to see the power sharing arrangements working and delivering for citizens.

Let there be no doubt about that.

We have a British government publicly walking away from their explicit obligation to act with “rigorously impartiality”, colluding in the continued denial of rights, and refusing to implement agreement on an Irish Language Act and dealing with the past.

If the talks are to be successful the issues of rights, respect and equality need to resolved.

The next Assembly and Executive will not be like the last.

A new progressive dynamic is at play.

The majority of MLAs are against Brexit, ongoing Tory Austerity and the cutting of public services.

They are also socially progressive.

I would hope that all parties, with a mandate who have called for the res-establishment of the Executive will be partners in power-sharing.  

Those parties can shape the incoming executive and assembly in opposing Brexit and pushing forward on progressive social and economic changes.

Promoting equality and inclusion. Building prosperity and ending poverty.

Central to all of this is the British Cabinet and in particular the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

A change of British policy is required to meet its commitments under the Good Friday Agreement to citizens in this jurisdiction to end the inequality and the disrespect.
These issues can and must be resolved.

The negotiators have met; the various party’s positions are well rehearsed, now is the time for resolution.

The Threat of Brexit
With less than three months to go the implications of Brexit for the future of our island are enormous.

Jobs will be lost.

Brexit is bad for all Ireland and the highest price will be paid by the economy and people of the north.

The most recent report published two weeks ago by the North’s Department for the Economy predicts up to 40,000 jobs are at risk in the event of a no-deal Brexit. A huge number of job losses for a small region.

The DUP refuse to acknowledge what their Brexit will mean for our businesses, for our agri-food producers, our workers and our community sector if the British government crashes out of the EU without a deal.

Last month a confidential British government study was published by the Brexit select committee.

It identified 142 areas of co-operation between the 26 counties and the North, and between the island of Ireland and Britain. All will be disturbed by Brexit.

And then there is the future of the Good Friday Agreement and of the political institutions in this part of the island.

All this is now at risk. A hard border looms.

If the British Government have factored into their calculations a hard border, then they must factor in a Unity Referendum as laid out in the Good Friday Agreement.
The route back for the north into the EU is clear. Irish unity is the route back to the EU.

We will be meeting Boris Johnston in the coming days. We will remind him not only of the need to respect the wishes of the majority to remain within the EU.

We will also remind him of his obligations under the Good Friday and subsequent agreements including the provision for a unity referendum.

Brexit has re-exposed the folly of partition and reinforced the need for Irish unity.

Sinn Féin makes no apology for promoting our vision of a united Ireland.

We make no apology for promoting the urgent need for a conversation on the same.

What has anyone to fear from a conversation about our future?

Partition has failed.

It has prevented this island from reaching its potential for nearly a century.

Brexit will serve only to reinforce that partition and further damage our island.

The people of the north – unionist and nationalist – knew this when they voted to remain in the European Union.

This point has been conceded by the former British Prime Minister Theresa May who stated that she wasn’t confident a referendum on Irish unity could be won by those promoting the status quo.

Political unionism has lost its electoral majority in a series of consecutive elections.

The nationalist people of the north have turned their backs on Westminster and increasingly look to Dublin for leadership.

Brexit has forced increasing numbers of people, from all backgrounds, to look South.

Every government prepares for the future – it is the proper and diligent thing to do.

With the threat of a no-deal Brexit now a real prospect, it is irresponsible not to prepare for constitutional change.

Last Friday An Taoiseach told the MacGill Summer School that the Government would have to consider a forum on Irish unity in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

While the Taoiseach has the responsibility to lead the debate on Irish Unity he should appoint an Irish Government Minister of State with the dedicated and specific responsibility of developing strategies to advance Irish unity and coordinating the Government’s all-Ireland policies.

The government has to begin planning for unity.

Creating the environment for the necessary conversation and discussion to take place.

Looking at the steps needed to demonstrate that unity is in the best interest of all, economically viable, and welcoming for unionists, and all citizens.

A forum which is open to all strands of political opinion on this island can only be a good initiative.

The discussion about unity is taking place everywhere and everyday.

Peter Robinson, Paul Bew, Eileen Paisley, James Nesbitt, Harold Good and Mervyn Gibson – to name but a few – have all addressed the issue of unity from a distinctly unionist perspective.

These utterances are symptomatic of a growing discourse in the north and across the island.

Yet political unionism has buried its head in the sand as the debate rushes around them.

Elements of our political establishment tell us that now is not the time to discuss Irish unity.

They are wrong. Now, is exactly the right time to discuss it.

A growing number of people in the north, including many from a unionist background, are now considering their future in the context of Brexit.

Many are now open to discussing the prospect of a new Ireland, an agreed Ireland and united Ireland.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the SDLP should do the same.

I don’t mean to provoke these parties – they contain many committed United Irelanders – but it is now far beyond time for a serious conversation about our future.
There is no contradiction between having a functioning Northern Assembly and Executive and planning for Irish unity. Sinn Féin wants to share power with unionists in the North and we want to share power with unionists in a united Ireland.

It is my belief that this will happen. Boris Johnson may try to prevent this and to use Ireland as part of his game playing with the EU. Our people – all of us including those who vote for the DUP – deserve better.

The choice is clear.

It is the choice between the narrow negative self-serving divisive decisions taken by little Englanders in Westminster.

Or a shared inclusive future in which we take our own decisions together in the interests of the people of this island.

Constitutional Change is coming. Preparation need to be made now.

Tá athrú ag teacht.
Ní mór dúinn a bheith ullamh.
Go raibh maith agaibh a chairde.
Críoch.

BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

Subscribe to our Print Edition!

Select one

Phil Coulter: One Show Only!

Hurling for Cancer

Michael Hogan iBAM! 2019 Headliner

August Digitally Linked

Advertisers

Paying For
Instructions

July Digital Online Edition

Advertising Rates 2019

Irish Ann

Shop Irish!

ARTIST
Liam Goarke
ASSISTED LIVING
Homecare Angels

ATTORNEY
Joyce Stevens
Murphy & Smith Ltd
Dwyer and Coogan
Healy Law

BAGPIPERS & DRUM CLASSES

Chicalba Bagpiping

BAKERY
Doughs Guys Bakery
BANKS

Marquette National Bank
BANQUETS
Gaelic Park
Irish Am Heritage Ctr
BEAUTY SALONS
Appearances Pk Ridge
 847-825-7615
Hair by O'Hara & Friends-Hometown
BOOKS - IRISH
TheIrishBookClub.com
BRICK REPAIR/REPLACEMENT
Shamrock Tuckpointing

CATERERS
Harrington's Catering & Deli
Unforgettable Edibles
CHARITABLE ORG

Mercy Home
IrishCommunityServicest
CAULKING & SEALING
Shamrock Tuckpointing
CHIMNEY REPAIR

Shamrock Tuckpointing

CHOIR
Irish Heritage Singers
COTTAGE RENTAL
Cottage Mary Rose
Dingle Cottage: 312-399-8793
Gurtenard Hse - Listowel Co Kerry
CRUISES

Andy Cooney
CULTURAL ORGANIZATIONS

Chicago Gaelic Park

iBAM!
Irish Am Heritage Ctr
Irish Am Society Co Will
Irish Heritage Singers
DANCE SCHOOLS

McNulty School of Dance
Trinity Irish Dance
ENTERTAINERS

Chicalba Bagpiping

Paddy Homan
The Larkin Brothers
Catherine O'Connell
Joe McShane
FESTIVALS

Arlington Heights
Dublin

IAHC
Indianapolis
Kansas City
Milwaukee
FINANCIAL PLANNER

Corrigan Financial
FLORIST

Garland Flowers
FUNERAL HOMES

Blake-Lamb

Gibbon's Funeral Homes
Roberty J Sheehy & Sons

GAELIC YOUTH FOOTBALL
773-719-2847 Jerry
GARBAGE REMOVAL
Flood Brothers Disposal
GOLF COURSES
Palos Golf
GRAPHIC DESIGN

Laura Coyle 773-343-7268
GROCERIES/MEAT

O'Connor's Market

Winston's
HEARING SPECIALIST
Mel Dermody
HOTELS

The Irish Cottage 1 866 CU-IRISH
HUMAN RESOURCE CONSULTANT
James Fitzgerald
IMMIGRATION SERVICES

IrishCommunityServices
IMPORT SHOPS
Ann's Irish Gifts

Celtica Gifts 773-784-7712
Donegal Imports
Gaelic Imports
Irish Shop
INSURANCE

American Family-Joan McKee
Riordan Insurance
JEWELERS

H. Watson
MORTGAGE LENDING
Linda DeRoeck

MUSIC SCHOOLS
Chgo Academy of Piping/Drumming
Irish Music School of Chgo
MYSTERY SHOPPER
Cathy Cooney-Millar 224-944-9654

PARTY PLANNERS
That Special Event

PENNY WHISTLES
Michael Burke
PHOTOGRAPH CAPTURING
Memoirs for Me
PHYSICAL THERAPY
SPORTS-ORTHOPEDIC
Athletex
PLASTERING

William McNulty & Son
708-386-2951
PUB/RESTAURANT RECRUITER
Cathy Cooney-Millar
PUBS & RESTAURANTS

Ashford House
The Celtic Knot
Clancy's Pizza Pub
Corcorans
Emerald Loop
Fifth Province
Fiddler's Hearth
The Galway Arms
James Joyce Irish Pub
Lizzie McNeill's
Mickey Finn's Brewery
Nine Irish Brothers
Peggy Kinnanes
R
ed Apple Buffet
Six Penny Bit
Vaughan's Pub

REALTORS

Koenig & Strey
Mary Ellen Considine  773-769-2500
RESTAURANT/HOSPITALITY RECRUITER
Cathy Cooney-Millar 224-944-9654
SPORTS CLUBS

Chgo Celtic Soccer Club
stbrigids.chicago.gaa.ie
ST PATRICK'S DAY
St Patrick's Day Parade
SWEATERS

Anne's Irish Knits
TABLE RUNNERS
All 32 Counties
TELEVISION-CABLE

Irish Journal 708-366-4665
THEATRE
Late Nite Catechism
Tony & Tina's Wedding
TOURIST ATTRACTION
Ronald Reagan Boyhood Home
TRAVEL /TOURS
BestIrishTours.com
Gadabout Travel
TUCKPOINTING
Shamrock Tuckpointing
VACATION RENTALS
Dingle Cottage
Cork - Cottage from $450 weekly
Don at 608-274-1180
WASTE REMOVAL
Flood Brothers Disposal
WEDDING PLANNER
That Special Event

WEDDING VENUES
Gaelic Park
Irish Am Heritage Ctr
Palos Country Club
WOOD FLOOR SPECIALIST
The Sexton Group