Sinn Fein activists were today set to urge First Minister Peter Robinson to agree to an economic probe into the costs of partition.
The party’s ard fheis was due to back a motion calling on the Office of the First Ministers to employ an independent economic research firm to examine the price of maintaining the border.
And in a keynote address, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness was expected to underpin the party’s committment to a policy of Irish reunification as its core objective.
It was thought his speech, shifted from the Friday opening session to today, will emphasise the party’s argument that the current economic downturn could be ameliorated in the context of a united Ireland.
He will be speaking to a key motion from Sinn Fein’s executive which reaffirms “that the question of Irish unity remains at the top of our agenda, not as rhetoric, nor as a matter of inherited tradition, but as an issue of practical and political urgency.
“The recent financial crisis is yet another demonstration of the need for the Irish people to be in control of their own destiny and not simply represented either indirectly through London or disjointedly through Dublin.”
The gathering at the RDS in Dublin was also due to call for moves towards unity contained in both the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements “to be instituted without further delay” including the All-Ireland Consultative Civic Forum and the All-Ireland Parliamentary Forum drawn from the Assembly in Belfast and the Oireachtas in Dublin “pooling political and legislative experience”.
Sinn Fein last year set up an Irish Unity Task Force which has indicated an examination of the case for expanding of the current cross-border bodies and the creation of additional All-Ireland structures is making progress - and maintained pressure on the Dublin Government for a discussion paper “on the way forward to a United Ireland”.
Against the backdrop of a focus on Irish unity, however, the row over Mr McGuinness’s official title as ‘deputy’ First Minister continued even though he and Mr Robinson have co-equal powers.
While party president Gerry Adams insisted he was relaxed over the ‘deputy’ nomenclature, the party’s website referred to Mr McGuinness as “co-First Minister”.
This came after the DUP leader in the Assembly rebuked deputy Speaker, Ulster Unionist MLA David McClarty, for using the term ‘joint First Ministers’.
But the east Londonderry MLA hit back yesterday: “Peter Robinson cannot get away from the fact that he and Sinn Fein's Martin McGuinness are ministerially joined at the hip. They have mutual vetoes and shared powers".