| 0.4°C Belfast

Sinn Fein president urges EU to adopt pro-Irish unity stance

Mary Lou McDonald’s call came as former Fianna Fail taoiseach Bertie Ahern said a poll on unification was inevitable.

Close

Mary Lou McDonald and Bertie Ahern (Niall Carson/Brian Lawless/PA)

Mary Lou McDonald and Bertie Ahern (Niall Carson/Brian Lawless/PA)

Mary Lou McDonald and Bertie Ahern (Niall Carson/Brian Lawless/PA)

Sinn Fein’s president has urged the EU to adopt a pro-Irish unification position.

Mary Lou McDonald, who could be Ireland’s new premier after a landmark electoral breakthrough, said the bloc should take a “positive approach” to unity.

“I think the European Union needs to take a stand in respect of Ireland in the same way that it supported the reunification of Germany,” she said.

“In the same way that it has a position on Cyprus, for example, and a positive approach to the reunification of that country.

It is plain to see that partition and division has been a disaster and that reunification, reconciliation and good relationships with our next-door neighbours is the way forwardMary Lou McDonald

“I think Ireland is no different.”

In an interview with BBC Newsnight, she said: “I think it would be correct for our allies, for our friends, for anybody who cares about his country and our people, it is plain to see that partition and division has been a disaster and that reunification, reconciliation and good relationships with our next-door neighbours is the way forward.”

Earlier, former Irish premier Bertie Ahern said a border poll was “inevitable” following Sinn Fein’s electoral success.

Ms McDonald’s first General Election as leader of the republican party on Saturday saw the party romp home with huge gains across the state, and in constituencies where they had never had a representative.

Due to the historic shift, focus has turned to the question of a united Ireland, a long-held aim of Sinn Fein, and the basis for its “programme for government”.

M Ahern, the former taoiseach and Fianna Fail leader, said on Monday, as counting continued across the state: “I think a border poll is inevitable.

“If you ask me when that is, I think it’s probably five years off at least.

Brexit
A Sinn Fein poster calling for Irish unity on the N3 road outside Co Cavan near the border with Northern Ireland (Brian Lawless/PA)

“I think the Sinn Fein position is it should be held within five years.

“So let’s say we are talking about it being five years off, I do not think you are going to get the circumstances where it would become a condition of government that it has to be held in the short term.

“But it will be inevitable over this decade.”

On BBC Radio 4’s World At One he warned against rushing towards a poll on reunification before extensive preparatory work had been completed.

“It can only be done when the preparation is done, when the case is made, when it has been well explained, when people know the outcome,” he said.

“To try and push it or rush it, which some people will probably try to do, would be a grave mistake.”

Sinn Fein has gained the most first preference votes in Ireland’s 2020 election held on Saturday, however a united Ireland and Brexit did not feature as major voting issues.

Domestic crises in the health and housing sector are widely accepted as the two main drivers behind the shift in Irish politics.

Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill said on Monday it was a “good day” when asked about her party’s electoral successes.

“We have provided solutions in terms of the health crisis and the housing crisis so we will want to work with others to establish a programme for government that reflects how we can deliver upon those promises,” she said.

Irish unity march
People take part in an Irish unity march as they cross the Lifford Bridge, from Donegal, which marks the border between Strabane in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland, and Lifford in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland (Niall Carson/PA)

“But obviously we are Irish republicans, there is no secret of that, and clearly we will have asks in terms of the republican project, clearly we will have asks in terms of the kind of society we want to build.

“At the end of the day, we have said there should be a unity referendum within five years so that’s the position we will take into negotiations.”

Ms O’Neill added she “absolutely” feels this election has pushed Irish reunification closer.

I think this is a seismic election shift in the 26 counties, Sinn Fein are the largest party in the 26 countiesMichelle O'Neill, Sinn Fein

“We have said things are going in this direction for some time, I think for a number of reasons not least the fact that the unionist majority, the very basis on which this northern state was founded, is gone and has been gone over the last number of elections.

“But I think this is a seismic election shift in the 26 counties, Sinn Fein are the largest party in the 26 counties, I think that is significant in itself.”

The Sinn Fein leader set about trying to form a left-coalition government on Monday, contacting smaller progressive parties and independents, however even if all were on board, she is likely to still fall shy of the 80 seats needed to form a government and could be forced to look to one of the traditional parties, Fine Gael or Fianna Fail, for assistance.

Fianna Fail, likely to hold the most seats in the Irish parliament after the votes have been counted, has sent mixed messages over whether or not it would be willing to work with Sinn Fein, with some representatives saying the coalition is “inevitable” while others say the two party’s policies are “untenable” together.

PA