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Twelfth could be public holiday in united Ireland, says Sinn Fein’s Mary Lou McDonald

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PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/7/2021: The Larne District on parade during the Twelfth demonstration in the Co Antrim town. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/7/2021: The Larne District on parade during the Twelfth demonstration in the Co Antrim town. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Mary-Lou McDonald visits Londonderry...Sinn Fein handout photo of Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald talking to the media while on a visit to Londonderry on Thursday. Picture date: Thursday August 26, 2021. PA Photo.

Mary-Lou McDonald visits Londonderry...Sinn Fein handout photo of Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald talking to the media while on a visit to Londonderry on Thursday. Picture date: Thursday August 26, 2021. PA Photo.

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PACEMAKER, BELFAST, 12/7/2021: The Larne District on parade during the Twelfth demonstration in the Co Antrim town. PICTURE BY STEPHEN DAVISON

Annual celebrations on July 12 could be a public holiday in the event of a united Ireland, according to Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald.

The leader said she supported the idea of making the Orange Order ‘Twelfth’ celebration a public holiday and said she thinks it “is a good idea”.

Ms McDonald was speaking at an event in Dublin on Wednesday alongside the DUP’s Sir Jeffrey Donaldson and Fine Gael TD Neale Richmond.

The leader also addressed the wider question of the Irish unity debate and said the next steps in the process for a united Ireland was “not to rush”.

“What about the anthem? What about the flag? What about a public holiday for the Twelfth of July, which I think is a good idea,” she told the audience at the Good Summit seminar in Trinity College Dublin.

“I’m not saying let’s gallop to the polls next week and have a referendum, that clearly would be farcical. But what I am saying is let’s not lose time now to start planning and discussing the practical bread-and-butter issues that matter.”

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Mary-Lou McDonald visits Londonderry...Sinn Fein handout photo of Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald talking to the media while on a visit to Londonderry on Thursday. Picture date: Thursday August 26, 2021. PA Photo.

Mary-Lou McDonald visits Londonderry...Sinn Fein handout photo of Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald talking to the media while on a visit to Londonderry on Thursday. Picture date: Thursday August 26, 2021. PA Photo.

Mary-Lou McDonald visits Londonderry...Sinn Fein handout photo of Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald talking to the media while on a visit to Londonderry on Thursday. Picture date: Thursday August 26, 2021. PA Photo.

Mr Donaldson told the event a united Ireland would not “heal the wounds” as a result of the past.

Sir Jeffrey rejected the idea of a border poll, saying the last year has shown there is a "long way" to reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

"It would be very divisive. It would polarise the community in Northern Ireland," he said.

"Right now I don't think we need to have that. I think that the majority of Northern Ireland wants to remain within the UK.

"I think that is evident from all the opinion polls that we've had. I don't think there is a majority for change and to be honest, we have many other priorities that we need to deal with."

He added: "I think the last year has shown that we have a long way still to go in building reconciliation and bringing people together in Northern Ireland.

"I think that too should be a priority at this time.

"I don't think we should push that down the road as I've said, I think that we do need to look at ways in which we can build our shared future.

"I believe also that means understanding our shared history, and not being afraid to engage with our shared history."

Meanwhile, Ms McDonald said she hoped Irish language legislation would be intoduced in Westminster in the coming weeks.

The Government pledged to press ahead with legislating for Irish language protections at Westminster after failed attempts at Stormont, with Mr Lewis saying the move would come at some point in October.

The Government previously faced calls from the DUP not to press ahead with the legislation while unionist concerns about Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol remain unaddressed.

“Whether it’s language rights or other matters, it’s a really important thing in public life, particularly in the really unique powersharing arrangement that we have in the North, that when we sign off on agreements that we implement them,” she said.

“I hope that we can get to that point where rationally we argue the bit, we negotiate, we agree and then we implement. That’s the only rational way that we can do business.”


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