Belfast Telegraph

Unionist or nationalist, it's vital to vote for Remain candidates, says Sinn Fein leader McDonald

Martina Anderson at Sinn Fein’s manifesto launch at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.
Martina Anderson at Sinn Fein’s manifesto launch at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall.
Mark Bain

By Mark Bain

Sinn Fein has called on voters to send a clear message to London, Brussels and beyond by returning two pro-Remain candidates in next week's European elections.

Launching the party manifesto at Belfast's Waterfront Hall ahead of the May 22 vote, Mary Lou McDonald said there's a unique opportunity for people to show solidarity in wanting what's best for everybody, right across Ireland.

Joined by her vice president Michelle O'Neill and Euro candidate Martina Anderson, who topped the poll in Northern Ireland last time round, the party president predicted the return of two pro-Remain candidates to Brussels.

"This is a unique and unifying moment of solidarity for people who want what is best for all of us, for everybody right across Ireland, where people can look to shared, common interests and stave off shared common dangers and threats," she said.

"Brexit changes everything for all of us, and it's for that reason that we identify this as maybe a unique and unifying moment of solidarity for people who want what is best for all of us right across Ireland.

"The only thing to do is to vote for pro-Remain parties and reject Brexit.

"Martina Anderson is the strongest advocate of the pro-Remain position.

"I think it's important that a pro-Remain candidate tops the poll, but I also think it's very important that, in the round, the pro-Remain argument wins the day.

"So I would say to everybody - whether they come from unionism or from nationalism, or they are somewhere in between - think long and think hard, and be sure in this European election that we send the right, the accurate and the progressive signal to Brussels, to London, and beyond, that people here are united in a desire for progress to protect our peace process, our peace agreements, to protect our economy, our livelihoods, our agriculture, that's what a vote for a pro-Remain candidate amounts to. We are Euro critical, we know that farmers, business, ordinary people will be injured and harmed by Brexit.

"Those are the facts.

"The bare minimum protections that Ireland requires are contained in the backstop - there can be no backsliding from that."

Ms McDonald added that she believes that voters have the opportunity to send out a clear message to the Conservative Government.

"This really is the election campaign that the Tories didn't want to happen," the Sinn Fein leader insisted.

"Martina Anderson really is the person that the Tories wish was not on posters anywhere. This is a moment for all of us to take a stand.

"I don't believe this is a moment for us all to retreat into fear or old tribal rivalries. This is a time to look to the future.

"There is no credible case to be made for Brexit.

"It is extremely dangerous for our peace process and agreements.

"A vote for Martina says Ireland will not be collateral damage to the reckless Tory Brexit.

"No MEP has defended the Irish case in the way that Martina has.

"There are many people across the parliament and institutions in Europe who would tell you likewise.

"People have to scrutinise the position adopted by candidates very carefully.

"I don't think people should be speaking out of both sides of their mouths on the issue of Brexit."

Ms Anderson told the audience that no other party has fought harder for Ireland over the past five years, particularly over Brexit issues.

"There would not be a backstop if it hadn't been for Sinn Fein," she said.

"We brought the focus and attention to Ireland, demonstrating the damage it was going to do to our country, particularly to those of us who live in the north.

"Brexit belongs to the Tories, the Good Friday Agreement belongs to us.

"We secured that the Good Friday Agreement needed to be protected in all of its parts, that there would be no hardening of the Irish border."

Mrs O'Neill added that Ireland was "at best and as ever an afterthought in the minds of the British Establishment" when negotiating the Brexit deal.

"Since 2016 Sinn Fein has campaigned vigorously on the idea of special status for the North, a policy the SDLP, Alliance Party and Green Party have now adopted.

"We cannot withstand exclusion from the customs union or the single market.

"Team Sinn Fein brought Irish issues to the heart of Europe.

"We have stood up to the DUP and the British Government.

"Irish unity is now firmly on the agenda in Europe."

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