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Experts unite for academic project aimed at examining island's future

We can't base reunification debate on language of threat: McDonald

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Sensitivities: Prof Gerry McKenna says debate around unity must be informed one

Sensitivities: Prof Gerry McKenna says debate around unity must be informed one

Sensitivities: Prof Gerry McKenna says debate around unity must be informed one

The debate on Irish reunification should not be based on language of "threat or danger" according to the Sinn Fein president.

Mary Lou McDonald said that the "massive" opportunity must be "grasped" by the Irish government as it poses the chance to build a national health service in the Republic.

Ms McDonald was speaking ahead of the launch today of an all-Ireland initiative aimed at informing public debate on issues affecting the whole island, such as Brexit and a border poll.

Speaking yesterday on This Week on RTE Radio One, Ms McDonald said that the Irish government "needs to get to work" on its shared island unit.

"Grasping the opportunity I think, it's important.

"This debate around reunification shouldn't be posited on the language of threat or danger; this is a massive opportunity.

"Speaking to unionists, nationalists, republicans, to ordinary people if you like on the ground, the thing that is raised most often with me is the future of the health service.

"I think the opportunity to build an Irish national health service island-wide is absolutely within our grasp and all the more necessary when we surveyed the Covid scene of the here and now," she added.

She said that it is not only Sinn Fein members who are looking for a Citizens Assembly on Irish unity.

"I think the government needs to get to work, there's people in Sinn Fein, beyond Sinn Fein, arguing correctly for a citizens assembly or a forum, I don't mind what it's called, but it needs to move beyond the very valuable dialogues of the shared island unit into real concrete planning," she said.

Meanwhile, a new project called ARINS - Analysing and Researching Ireland North and South - gets off the ground today.

It brings together experts from all over Ireland and abroad to consider some of the most significant policy matters being debated right now.

Questions to be explored as part of the project range from constitutional and institutional issues, to options for economic, fiscal and social policy. Relations within Northern Ireland, across the island, and between Ireland and Britain will all be assessed.

Professor Gerry McKenna, senior vice-president of the Royal Irish Academy, said that while a border poll had been raised, holding such a vote without prior research and informed debate on the options and their consequences would be "most unfortunate".

"The academy recognises the sensitivities around the very process of conducting such research but believes that the need to ensure that all eventualities are anticipated and researched, and that the ensuing debate is informed and comprehensive, takes primacy," added Professor McKenna.

Professor Patrick Griffin of the University of Notre Dame said that research on such matters are not intended to strengthen or weaken any particular aspiration, "but rather to foster meaningful debate".

"Irrespective of how constitutional questions might develop, it is also essential to understand how the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement and its institutions might be affected by the uncertainties of this moment," he added.

"As part of this exercise, it is critical to map interdependencies and connections within and between Northern Ireland, Ireland and the United Kingdom," he added.

Papers from the ARINS Project will be published monthly in the Irish Studies in International Affairs journal. All articles will be free to access online at www.arinsproject.com

Belfast Telegraph


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