Belfast Telegraph

'It’s equality stupid' - Gerry Adams rejects Mallon's proposal to amend GFA vote on Irish unity

Gerry Adams has rejected a proposal from Seamus Mallon.
Gerry Adams has rejected a proposal from Seamus Mallon.
Gareth Cross

By Gareth Cross

Former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has rejected a proposal from SDLP veteran Seamus Mallon to amend the conditions for a vote on Irish unity under the Good Friday Agreement.

In his new book, the former SDLP deputy leader writes that the current conditions for Irish unity, a referendum result of over 50% in favour, would not create a peaceful and prosperous united Ireland.

Mr Mallon argued that a united Ireland should wait until the majority of unionists are in favour of it.

"My concern is that a very narrow vote for unity would lead to more division, instability and probably violence. Look at the chaos caused by the narrow vote for Brexit in the UK and by the lack of preparation, reasoned debate and public education before that referendum," he wrote.

Writing in his weekly Andersontown News column Mr Adams rejected the proposal saying that it undermines the "equal and democratic value that should be given to every vote".

The long-serving former Sinn Fein leader wrote that he never believed Mr Mallon was a "big fan" of the Good Friday Agreement in the first place and that he believed it was partly responsible for the decline in popularity of the SDLP.

Mr Adams wrote that Mr Mallon's proposal would give unionists an "entrenched veto over the issue of rights" and the "right to self determination".

In the article the Louth TD says that Mr Mallon "hasn't moved on from the deeply flawed Sunningdale Agreement".

"In short Mr Mallon is saying that a unionist majority can maintain partition, and the union with Britain, but a majority which favours a united Ireland cannot achieve this without the agreement of a majority of Unionists," Mr Adams wrote.

The former West Belfast MP pointed to recent referendums in the Republic of Ireland on marriage equality on abortion rights, saying that a majority vote was considered good enough in these instances.

Seamus Mallon on the campaign trail.
Seamus Mallon on the campaign trail.

Mr Adams argued that if Mr Mallon's proposals were adopted it would make rights, like those of Irish language speakers and the LGBT community, harder to secure.

Despite the proposal the former Sinn Fein President said that Mr Mallon "must know such a change will not be agreed".

Mr Adams said that every "united Irelander wanted the biggest possible majority for unity" and acknowledged that it would take hard work to persuade unionists that it was the best way forward.

However he rejected the suggestion that nationalists and republicans should "stop pushing for unity".

"Where in the tortured history of the northern state is there evidence to support the view that nationalists acquiescing to unionism ever worked?," Mr Adams wrote.

"On the contrary, from the civil rights movement through the peace process, and the many periods of negotiations, progress has only been achieved when nationalists and republicans stood up for and asserted our rights alongside the rights of everyone else. It’s equality stupid!"

Gerry Adams and John Hume
Gerry Adams and John Hume

The former Sinn Fein leader said that the SDLP veteran's suggestion that a narrow unity referendum win risks a return to the past was "spurious and offensive".

Mr Adams wrote that he did not believe that "there is any support for a return to the conflict of the past".

He said that following events of the past few years that Irish unity was now "firmly fixed on the political agenda".

"We will not take it off that agenda nor will we acquiesce to a new unionist veto. My preference is for a unitary state but as republicans have said many times we are open to agreeing transitional arrangements. In fact, transitional arrangements are a necessary part of our journey as an island people," Mr Adams wrote.

"As republicans we are working for a shared space, a new harmonious dispensation, in which sectarianism is a thing of the past and where people of every political persuasion and none can live, work and socialise together on the basis of equality. That’s the way forward."

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