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Gerry Adams raps Seamus Mallon for backing 'unionist veto'

Seamus Mallon
Seamus Mallon

By Ian Begley

Former SDLP deputy leader Seamus Mallon has said the only way unionists will support a united Ireland is if nationalists offer "generosity".

More than a hundred people gathered at the Irish Architectural Archive in Merrion Square, Dublin, last night for the launch of the 82-year-old's first book, A Shared Home Place.

Co-authored by veteran journalist Andy Pollack, the memoir traces Mr Mallon's rise in politics and highlights his blueprint for moving towards a united Ireland.

"The book is based on the ideal that Northern Ireland should be a shared home place for everyone. Irish unity can only come about through unionist consent," he said. "Nationalists need to show generosity if they're ever going to persuade unionists of the benefits of a united Ireland."

A Shared Home Place describes Mr Mallon's happy upbringing in south Armagh as a Catholic in a 90% Protestant village, his turbulent years as a constitutional politician in the maelstrom of near-civil war, and his central role in the peace process.

In his book he argues 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 claimed 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.

Former Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams criticised Mr Mallon yesterday, saying his proposal would give unionists an "entrenched veto over the issue of rights" and the "right to self-determination". He said Mr Mallon was "never a big fan" of the Hume-Adams talks.

"Seamus Mallon's willingness to change the Good Friday Agreement & reintroduce the unionist veto threatens progress and ignores the lessons and failures of partition," he tweeted.

In the article the Louth TD said 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," he added.

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

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