Belfast Telegraph

Unionists could retain British citizenship in united Ireland says Sinn Fein's McDonald

The Sinn Fein leader also had a warning for Prime Minister Theresa May.

By Gareth Cross

Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has said that unionists would be able to retain their British citizenship in the event of a united Ireland.

The Sinn Fein leader also issued a warning to Prime Minister Theresa May that changes to the union between Northern Ireland and Britain cannot be stopped.

Mrs McDonald made the comments during a speech titled 'Remembering, Respect and Reconciliation - Building a Future Together' to the Institute of Irish Studies at the University of Liverpool on Thursday.

The Dublin Central TD said that as part of a new Ireland unionists would be able to maintain their British citizenship and that close links would remain between the two countries.

Mrs McDonald also responded to Mrs May's comments that no Prime Minister would consider changes to the union.

The Prime Minister made the comments in February, while discussing customs plans for Northern Ireland after Brexit.

Mrs May said that no Prime Minister could allow a customs border in the Irish Sea.

However Mrs McDonald said that the "ship sailed in 1998" on changes to the union.

"If the people choose unity, then the British government is obliged to legislate for it," the Dublin TD told the audience.

“The truth is that since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the British government is obliged to act on the vote of the people in a unity referendum.”

The Sinn Fein leader said that part of a united Ireland would be a "new relationship with Britain", and that people would be allowed to remain British citizens in a united Ireland if they wished.

She said that Ireland and Britain shared "bonds of friendship, kinship and history" and this would continue in the event of a united Ireland.

People in Northern Ireland are entitled to British and Irish citizenship or both under the Good Friday Agreement.

Mrs McDonald also addressed the legacy row after Sinn Fein MLA Gerry Kelly said that the UK Government was the main Troubles protagonist.

The comments were heavily criticised by DUP leader Arlene Foster, UUP leader Robin Swann and Alliance Party leader Naomi Long.

On Thursday Mr Kelly admitted that the IRA "were a main protagonist" in the conflict.

"The debate on the past cannot and should not be reduced to whataboutery or who started the conflict in an attempt to apportion blame," the Sinn Fein leader said.

"It is not a zero-sum game. It is more important than political point scoring.

"My starting point is to be thankful that the conflict is over. That we have an agreement and peace.

"But we need more. We need a new conversation about the past.

"A focus on finding common ground and a compassionate approach to the past.

She said that past must be dealt with in order to build a better future for everyone.

“There are some who use the past to abdicate responsibility to lead in the present - those who want to refight old battles, to demand repentance, victory and surrender," Mrs McDonald said.

“That is not peacebuilding, and such actions can only perpetuate division and separation. We cannot ignore the past. We cannot wish it away.

"Wrongs that have been done cannot be undone.

"We must all face up to the past as a society. "

The Dublin Central TD said that the best way to deal with the past would be to have a "new conversation" and to focus on "finding common ground and a compassionate approach", to "acknowledge all suffering and provide a space to remember".

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