Northern Ireland

Sinn Féin and IRSP to share unity vote platform

Sinn Féin councillor Brian McMahon
Sinn Féin councillor Brian McMahon

Sinn Féin and the IRSP will officially share a platform for the first time in almost 40 years during a debate about an Irish unity referendum later this week.

The discussion has been organised by the ‘Yes for Unity’ campaign, which has links to the IRSP.

Themed the ‘Road to Referendum’, the event will be held in Strabane on Thursday and will involve representatives from both parties.

It is believed to be the first time since the 1981 Hunger Strikes that the two parties have officially shared a stage on an issue of common interest.

The IRSP will be represented by Belfast based member Ciarán Cunningham while Strabane Sinn Féin councillor Brian McMahon will speak on behalf of his party.

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Well-known Tyrone republican Tommy McKearney, representing the Peadar O’Donnell Socialist Republican Forum, and Sean Bresnahan from the 1916 societies will complete the line-up.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement the Secretary of State can trigger referendum on the future of the north.

Since the 2016 Brexit referendum result calls for an Irish unity poll have continued to grow.

‘Yes for Unity’ spokesman Michael McLaughlin, who will chair Thursday’s event, said it was important.

“It’s the first time since the Armagh H-Block campaign and hunger strike that the IRSP and Sinn Féin have shared a common platform,” he said.

“We believe it is a sign of the times that although political differences exist that republicans do have the capacity to come into a room and talk to each other out of necessity.”

Ciarán Cunningham last night said it was “vital” that republicans and socialists “don’t abstain from the debate”.

“We need to bring a left wing angle into the process that so far has been monopolised by mainstream parties,” he said.

He added that “when the left get involved in independence referendums it takes the debate down to a street level in which the interests of the working class become paramount.

“That’s why the IRSP want to be at the centre of this debate.”

Brian McMahon said he is looking forward to taking part in the debate.

“I think any debate on Irish unity has to be a positive one,” he said.

“This is the time and the place that we should have this discussion.”

Mr McMahon said his party has been discussing the issue for years and has even carried out a mock ballot in Strabane in the past.

He added that meetings to discuss the unity vote issue have taken place within the Irish diaspora as far away as San Francisco and New York.

A ‘simulated border poll’ organised by the ‘Yes for Unity’ campaign will take place later this month in the Strabane and Lifford areas.

The referndum discussion will take place at 7pm in Strabane Library on Thursday.