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Brexit gives unique chance to push for unification, says Adams launching paper

Published 28/11/2016

Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams said partition was stunting the potential of Ireland
Sinn Fein Leader Gerry Adams said partition was stunting the potential of Ireland

Brexit has swept away assumptions about the partition of Ireland and presented a unique opportunity to press for reunification, Gerry Adams said as he launched a new Sinn Fein unity blueprint.

Under the republican party's vision for a united Ireland, there would be a series of enshrined protections for unionists, including the option of British citizenship, and the potential retention of a devolved powersharing administration at Stormont.

The party's discussion document claims "Brexit has changed everything", arguing that the UK-wide vote to the leave the EU, in the face of a majority vote in Northern Ireland (56%) to remain, has major implications for the debate about the island's constitutional future.

The paper claims some unionists, particularly "young and liberal" voters, were now willing to explore the potential of a united Ireland.

Sinn Fein said an all-Ireland vote on unification should take place in the next political term.

Under the terms of the 1998 Good Friday peace agreement, the UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has the power to trigger a poll on unity, but only if he or she believes there has been a shift in public opinion in favour of changing the constitutional position.

Current Secretary of State James Brokenshire has said there is no evidence that Brexit has prompted such a change of opinion.

Sinn Fein president Mr Adams said it was "incomprehensible" to have one part of Ireland within the EU and one outside it.

The document was launched in Belfast and Dublin on Monday morning. Mr Adams, who penned the document's foreword, did not attend either of the launches as he is en route to Cuba for Fidel Castro's funeral.

"The Brexit referendum result has swept away many of the previous political assumptions about the constitutional, political and economic status quo in Ireland," he said.

"Ireland's political landscape, north and south, has been transformed dramatically.

"Massive uncertainties have been triggered about the implications for business, trade, jobs, social protections, educational opportunities, and future political and economic stability.

"This poses huge challenges for Irish national interests.

"For English and Welsh votes to drag the north of Ireland out of the EU against the will of its people would, like partition itself, be yet another travesty of democracy and would undermine the Good Friday Agreement.

"It is now vitally important that there is maximum co-operation to uphold the democratic wishes of the people of the north.

"Ultimately, the only realistic way to ensure this is through the unity of the island of Ireland."

Mr Adams said partition was stunting the "political, economic, social and cultural" potential of Ireland.

The paper also questioned the argument that the Irish Republic could not afford Northern Ireland, describing that as a "myth".

It challenged the level to which the UK government subsidises Northern Ireland, claiming the sum could be as low as £2.7 billion a year.

"The island of Ireland is currently administered by two states and three governments - in Dublin, Belfast and London," said Mr Adams.

"This system is wasteful, inefficient and incapable of successfully prioritising the interests of the Irish people that require an integrated vision for the island."

Among the proposals set out in the document are:

:: a new constitution for Ireland.

:: weighed parliamentary majorities to help protect unionist interests in an Irish parliament.

:: an all-island national health service free at the point of delivery.

:: expression of relationship between unionists and the British monarchy and recognition of the place of the protestant loyal orders.

Sinn Fein set out a series of steps to achieve a united Ireland. They include:

:: initiating an open and inclusive national conversation on Irish unity, involving citizens, political parties, social partners, and civil society.

:: publication of a Green Paper on Irish Unity which will identify steps and measures for a successful transition to a united Ireland.

:: establishment of an Irish parliamentary committee on reunification with the task of outlining, driving, monitoring and reviewing the transition towards unity.

:: appointment of 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.

:: co-ordination of economic planning on an all-island basis.

:: engagement by government departments north and south in joint public service provision and publish a timescale and strategy for the full integration of public services.

:: discussion with the EU Commission and institutions to examine what practical support they can give to facilitate an efficient process of reunification.

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