Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD opened the Towards a United Ireland conference in the Mansion House in Dublin on Saturday 21st January.
It was a packed conference which included as panel speakers Michelle O’Neill MLA, Susan McKay, Keven Meagher, Brian Feeney, Alex Kane, Mary Lou McDonald TD, Noel Whelan, Cat Boyd and Matt Carthy MEP.
In his remarks to capacity audience the Louth TD warned of the dangers of Brexit, particularly for the border community.
Gerry Adams said:
“There are immediate challenges facing those of us who want a united independent Ireland. But what is clear is that partition has failed unionists. It has failed nationalists. It has failed the people of this island. And ending partition has now taken on a new imperative following last summer’s Brexit vote.
As the dire economic implications of Brexit take shape there is an opportunity to promote a new agreed Ireland. Sinn Féin’s proposition that the North be accorded a designated special status within the EU will not affect the constitutional question. Taking the North out of the EU will. It will destroy the Good Friday Agreement.
Clearly the preferred option of many unionists and many nationalists is to remain within the EU. The speech by Theresa May will have reinforced this. The dangers of a hard Brexit, especially for the border communities, are now more obvious than before. The North needs a special designated status within the EU. The Irish government needs to adopt this as a strategic objective in its negotiations within the EU 27 as they negotiate with the British Prime Minister.
I have raised this consistently with the Taoiseach. However, as we saw this week in the Irish governments response to the speech by Theresa May there is at this time no strategic plan coming from the government. That is a cause of real concern.
The British government’s intention to take the North out of the EU, despite the wish of the people there to remain, is a hostile action. Not just because of the implications of a hard border on this island but also because of its negative impact on the Good Friday Agreement.
The British Prime Minister repeated her intention to bring an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court. Along with her commitment to remove Britain from the European Convention on Human Rights this stand threatens to undermine the fundamental human rights elements of the Good Friday Agreement. The British position also fails to take account of the fact that citizens in the North, under the Agreement, have a right to Irish citizenship and therefore EU citizenship.
All of this, and the current crisis around the RHI scandal is creating new political conditions. I believe that if we properly frame the positive arguments the potential of a new, reimagined, confident Ireland within the European Union, will prove attractive to some unionists.
There is an onus on the Irish Government to prepare a real plan for unity. A first step in this would be the development of an all-party group to bring forward a Green Paper for Unity. In addition, plans should be developed for an all-island National Health Service and for all island public services through a ‘United Ireland Investment and Prosperity Plan’.
Now is the time for all parties who support Irish unity to come together to design the pathway to a new, agreed, inclusive united Ireland – an Ireland that is built on equality and which is citizen-centred and inclusive.”