Position of united Ireland advocates misrepresented by commentator
WITH the widening of the debate on Irish unity and the question of a referendum as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement, there will be discussion on definitions of Irishness and Britishness. In this regard Patrick Murphy’s article (Opinion, March 27 2021) was helpful in provoking discussion but unhelpful in misrepresenting the position of Irish unity advocates including, but by no means only, Sinn Féin.
The article was based on the entirely untrue premise that “SF insists that unionists are British, not Irish”. We are accused of “abandoning 230 years of Irish republicanism”. And northern nationalists, Fine Gael and “Dublin’s media” are accused of anti-British attacks which are “also anti-unionist”. Nationalists are guilty, says Patrick Murphy, of equating unionism with the DUP.
It is difficult to know where to begin with all this. As is well known, and as repeated surveys have shown, people in the north of Ireland identify variously as Irish, British, both Irish and British, Northern Irish, various combinations of these, as well as some who identify with none of the categories. Therefore for Sinn Féin to insist that unionists are British would be patently absurd, and we don’t.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for people in the six counties to identify as either Irish or British or both. People can and do carry either Irish or British passports or both. We believe this should remain the case in the context of a United Ireland, as should the common travel area, an important assurance of our commitment to respecting all identities. But it is by no means the only assurance because our vision for the future is firmly rights-based. There must be no repeat of the discrimination and sectarianism of the past, while all manifestations of sectarianism need to be addressed and eliminated in a planned and programmed manner.
Patrick Murphy mentions Brexit and we agree absolutely that an Irish unity referendum must not repeat that debacle through lack of preparation. There must be wide-ranging debate across society, comprehensive public information and a clear view of what a new United Ireland would look like. And contrary to Patrick’s assertion, that is not down solely to economics. It is about human and civil rights, respect for diversity, anti-sectarianism, inclusion and reconciliation. It is about high-quality and equitable health, education and social services for all, decent pay for decent work, space for businesses to thrive, the environment and the economy.
Advocates for Irish unity are not so foolish as to equate all of unionism with the DUP. It is for unionists to select their political leadership and they have done so in recent times in such a manner that the unionist monolith of old no longer exists. The task for united Irelanders is to engage not only with all shades of unionism, but with all shades of politics across our island. It is to mobilise political momentum to ensure that the British government does not repeat the mistakes of the past, that it respects democracy in Ireland and that it brings forward the Irish unity referendum, which it is obliged to do under the Good Friday Agreement.
Emma Sheerin MLA
Sinn Féin Mid Ulster
Unionist whipping up of tensions could bring about an end to the Union
ARLENE Foster condemns the protocol, Michelle O’Neill accepts it, so why does Arlene’s decision hold sway within this power-sharing arrangement?
Arlene Foster has proven herself utterly useless in leading the unionist group, but then, who will replace her? The choices available are underwhelming. Arlene doesn’t understand that, in order to avoid a hard border with the Republic, and to ensure the success of a valuable trade deal between the UK and EU, the only realistic option available is an Irish Sea border which, to any sensible individual, will not really affect the political status of these six counties yet, to these people, it is an affront to their Britishness. However, should violence return, the UK will not allow such conduct to jeopardise their trade deal with the EU, and will be well within their rights to sever all ties with these six counties, leaving these unionists to manage their own affairs without their sponsor.
It’s ironic that, should such an event occur, it would have been brought about by those people entrusted to preserve this Union, the self-same people who urged everyone to support Brexit. Still, it would be a fitting end to an unnatural creation of religious apartheid, and it won’t be missed.
Another exercise in point-scoring
SO the demand for Sinn Féin members to don sackcloth and ashes has started again, this time led by conductor in chief Colum Eastwood, ably assisted by the DUP and the perennially complaining TUV.
This is a point-scoring opportunity and nothing else. For Arlene Foster and Jim Allister, a free kick to express their hatred and contempt for anything to do with republicans, for Colum Eastwood a chance to take a few votes off Sinn Féin in the next election.
Well Mr Eastwood, you have ensured that I for one and many like me will not be offering even a preference to the SDLP in the next or future elections. Your rush to recall the Assembly so Sinn Féin could be chastised is contemptible.
Now you have had your day in the sun maybe you will let Bobby Storey rest in peace and stop using him any longer.
Citizenship – a delicate truth
AN ARTICLE in The Irish News (April 1 2021) on the granting of Irish citizenship to John Le Carré, describes him as a “renowned English novelist” and says he was seen as a “quintessentially English writer”. It refers to his well-known spy novels, which were probably inspired through his service for many years with British Intelligence in MI5 and MI6, which the article does not mention. His role in the service was to keep tabs on so-called subversive organisations so making sure that the interests and privileges of the British ruling class were not threatened. It says a lot about the modern day Irish Republic that a person who spent many years of his life in the service of the British establishment could be granted citizenship. James Connolly would be turning in his grave.