Sunday, 19 December 2010

There is Only One Road to Peace and Unity

Lucilita Bhreatnach, Uniting Ireland Co-ordinator
WE, as people who share the island of Ireland, affirm, in common with the Irish Diaspora and friends of Ireland everywhere, our commitment to live in peace and harmony with one another.
We welcome the progress made in the past decade and a half in building and developing the Peace Process into a Political Process which has seen power shared for the first time between unionists, nationalists, republicans and others.
The referendum on the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 in the 26 Counties inserted in the Irish Constitution the affirmation that it is “the firm will of the Irish nation, in harmony and friendship, to unite all the people who share the territory of the island of Ireland”.
We endorse the Good Friday Agreement and the St Andrew’s Agreement and we urge the development of their full potential.
THE Uniting Ireland campaign – an initiative arisisng from this year’s Sinn Féin Ard Fheis – is gaining momentum.
As An Phoblacht goes to print, the campaign will have held its first major event, a rally in Monaghan Town on November 29th to mark 90 years of partition.
This will be followed by the launch of ‘Bridging the Border -Reconnecting Communities’ by Sinn Féin mayors and chairs across 11 border counties and a national conference in Dublin in 2011.
Debates will be held in Queen’s University on December 8th and other colleges in the New Year.
Sinn Féin has appointed Lucilita Bhreatnach, a former General Secretary of the party, to the position of Uniting Ireland Co-ordinator as part of a national task force driving the campaign forward.
At the Ard Fheis, a mission statement on Irish unity was unanimously adopted by delegates. This statement lays out the path forward to achieving Irish unity through a variety of ways such as promoting the benefits of unity among the Irish people, actively seeking the support of the unionist community, as well as maximising the support that exists abroad in places such as the United States, Canada and Britain.
The ‘Irish Unity Pledge’ is winning the backing of figures from across the political spectrum in both the provincial and national legislatures. Similar efforts are underway in the United States and Britain, led by Rita O’Hare and Seán Oliver respectively.
Lucilita says:
“We are attempting to raise consciousness about our vision of a new Ireland.
“It is clear that partition is a failed entity that created two failed economies and that now is the time for change.”
It is the long-term development of this initiative that will lay the groundwork for national unity, though.
For party activists and supporters, Lucilita sees the current economic and political situation as the perfect time for people to be reinforcing our belief that a united Ireland is the only lasting solution.
“We need to convince people of the economic benefits. This island cannot support two economies. It is madness that an island of this size has two agriculture departments, or two health departments with all their ancillary services.
“Our activists need to be communicating the message that there is an alternative and how it can be achieved.
“To those who say a united Ireland cannot be achieved, I say why not?
“When you consider what has already been achieved over the last 20 years, I think anything is possible.”
The campaign has made brochures available to party members that can be used as a lobbying document for use in every area. Leaflets are available which are aimed at young people and the colleges (a Red C poll this summer indicated that the biggest group in favour of a united Ireland are the under-25s). A crucial element of the campaign is achieving a broad range of support from outside republican circles.
Sinn Féin has already launched a discussion paper, ‘Green Paper for Irish Unity’, which is available on the Sinn Féin website ( Sinn Féin has been pressing for a Green Paper on Irish Unity to be published by successive Irish governments.
“Many organisations already work on an all-Ireland basis, “Lucilita says, “ but have to deal with separate government bodies for the likes of funding which again makes no sense.”
Persuading unionists of the benefits of a united Ireland presents a challenge but it is one that has to be embraced if our vision is to mean anything. According to Lucilita, there is a need for pragmatic argument here.
“In a unified country, unionism would make up approximately 20% of the population and this would give them far greater influence politically, economically and socially than they currently enjoy with Westminster.
“Business people in that community already see the economic benefits. If you want to grow your business the most obvious place is on the island you live on.
“Farmers are the same. There is already an all-Ireland aspect to the agricultural industry with Sinn Féin’s Michelle Gildernew as minister and everybody sees the advantage to this. We have already seen situations such as Fermanagh and Monaghan councils passing cross-border motions on practical issues. In the end of the day, people make practical decisions.”
Lucilita urged MPs and TDs, MLAs and councillors to be on the look-out for opportunities to highlight the issue of uniting Ireland through motions before city or town councils or other bodies. (See box for the preamble to the mission statement which can be used as a basis for any council motion.)
“The build-up to the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising is a chance for all republicans to avail of the opportunity to open up the debate on where we want to be as a people.
“The Good Friday Agreement still has to be fully implemented. Voting rights for all citizens of the island and for emigrants have yet to be established.”
With the Presidential election due to be held next year – and constitutionally it cannot be postponed – now would be the time to push for voting rights for those in the Six Counties and abroad (see the article on this on Page 27).
“James Connolly, the Declaration of Independence and the Democratic Programme are as relevant today as they were then,” says Lucilita. “This is our opportunity to develop the momentum around uniting Ireland and our vision for the future.”
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