Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 28 May 2016

Sinn Fein to call for referendum on Irish unity at 1916 commemoration event

By Deborah McAleese

Published 06/04/2015

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with actors in period costume at the 1916 Easter Rising event in Clifton House, Belfast, including Bartle D’Arcy (left), who is helping organise the centenary plans
Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness with actors in period costume at the 1916 Easter Rising event in Clifton House, Belfast, including Bartle D’Arcy (left), who is helping organise the centenary plans
Gerry Adams takes a selfie in Roslea yesterday
Commemoration of 50th anniversary of the 1916 Rising at Kilmainham Gaol

Sinn Fein intends to call for a referendum on Irish unity, party leader Gerry Adams has said.

He did not give an indication of when the call will be made, but said that next year's centenary events "should be a catalyst for a national debate" on unity.

"Partition has retarded and distorted the political, social and economic life of this island," the Sinn Fein president said.

During a 1916 commemoration in Roslea, Co Fermanagh yesterday, he called for a "peaceful rising" in Ireland.

"Many people now realise that it makes no sense to have two economies, two education systems, two health systems, two tax codes, two currencies on one small island," he said.

Mr Adams added that there is a growing recognition by the business community of the economic sense of an all-island economy with joined-up agriculture and health sectors. "The people of this island, whether urban or rural, from whatever background or tradition, share a common history and our futures are bound together.

"The message of the Proclamation, the symbolism of our national flag and the challenge for republicans today is to unite Orange and Green in equality and mutual respect," he said.

He said he would appeal directly "to working class unionists and loyalists to examine the economic and social price now being paid for the union".

"Sinn Féin is committed to securing, in the time ahead, a referendum on Irish unity so that each and every one of us, working together, can build a new, dynamic country.

"Such a referendum should not be seen as threatening to any section of our community," he told those at the commemoration.

Meanwhile, Sinn Fein's Gerry Kelly criticised dissident republicans involved in terrorism.

At the Easter commemoration at Milltown Cemetery in west Belfast, the Policing Board member said that Sinn Fein had tried to engage with the "small groupings" opposed to the peace process.

"They have no right to carry out armed actions, the vast majority of which are directed against unarmed civilians, in the name of Irish republicanism.

"These small groups are not the IRA. The IRA fought a war against State combatant forces and fought it to a conclusion," said Mr Kelly.

He added that the party is "standing firm against policies, which seek to cut our public services and force our citizens into further hardship".

"The Tories have already cut £1.5bn out of the public service budget and tried to impose additional cuts on the most vulnerable. Sinn Féin opposed these policies and protected families with children with disabilities, adults with severe disabilities, large families and the long-term sick," Mr Kelly said.

He said Sinn Fein ministers are "fighting to protect frontline public services from the worst of Tory cuts" but warned that the "magnitude of these cuts is putting real pressure on public services . It is clear that austerity is the cost of the union and both have failed."

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