1,000 take part in Irish border unity march
More than a thousand people took to the streets of Co Donegal and Co Tyrone yesterday to demand a united Ireland.
Republicans of all shades - from Sinn Fein to the Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP) to members of the 32 County Sovereignty Movement - marched as one from Lifford across the border into Strabane, chanting that they wanted "Irish unity now".
They were welcomed into Strabane town centre by a traditional Irish band playing well-known rebel song On The One Road.
Organisers stressed the march was a "non-party, non-political, non-sectarian, peaceful march" and had banned political banners and flags.
Many of those taking part waved tricolours, the Starry Plough, Basque, Catalonian and various GAA county flags.
Liam Sweeney, chairman of Strabane Sigersons GAA club, addressed those gathered, reiterating he had "absolutely no political affiliation to any political party" but that he wanted to build a new, united Ireland.
"I am a proud Irishman, a proud Gael, proud of where I come from. Our message is a simple one," he said.
"If the unity community can come together to co-operate on our common goal, we can successfully tackle any issues we face.
"Using our collective people power we can build a new, united, Irish republic that cherishes all of its children equally.
"By connecting people and showing solidarity with each other, we can transform Irish society and end the partition of Ireland.
"Partition has failed generations of Irish people, wreaking havoc on border communities. This town has been decimated by it over the years.
"Partition has prevented our entire island from reaching its true social, economic and cultural potential. A partitioned Ireland can only perpetuate the cycle of division. We aim to unite Ireland and its people."
Irish Language activist Grian Ni Dhaimhin spoke of a new generation of Irish speakers rising up and fighting for their rights. "The rights that we seek were promised to us via an Irish Language Act in the St Andrews Agreement in 2006 when I was only nine years old," she said.
"But today, nearly 14 years later, neither Stormont or the British Government have delivered those rights. They have continued to maintain the six counties as a cold place for the Irish language.
"But Ireland is now witnessing a growth of a new generation of young Gaeilgeoirs, galvanised and organised to claim back the rights that were taken from us and denied to us. This new generation of Gaels is both challenging the state and building the society we want to see."
One march organiser, Independent Derry and Strabane councillor Paul Gallagher, rejected unionist criticism it was an "exercise in chasing fantasy".
"This was a unity march and looking around you can see that unity happened. There are various shades of republicanism, ordinary people, families here today. This was a localised parade in the sense that we wanted it as a first step. It has proved very successful and you will see this moving across Ireland as the beginning of a new movement.
"To those who criticise this march, when you see thousands of people turning up on this single issue, and a lot of people don't see eye to eye on everything, that tells you it is not fantasy," he said.