Sunday, November 25, 2012

The Constitutional Convention and Border Poll

The past couple of years have been very important ones for Sinn Féin. Across the island successive elections have seen the party grow from strength to strength.

During this time Sinn Féin’s political message has been clear, coherent and consistent.

Whether in government in the north or opposition in the south it is about protecting public services and families on low and middle incomes; it is about fair taxes, investing in jobs, and growing the all-Ireland economy.

Sinn Féin is the only all-island party – a United Ireland party. Others, like Fianna Fáil, have engaged in the rhetoric of republican politics and a united Ireland for decades, but have no vision or strategies or policies to advance it.

Sinn Féin’s approach is rooted in our core republican values and our vision of a new Republic for this island. We believe in citizens and in citizens rights protected in legislation.

Partition has failed the people of Ireland, north and south, the unionists and the rest of us. A new agreed Ireland based on the rights of citizens is needed.

Constitutional Convention

On December 1st the inaugural meeting of the Irish government’s constitutional convention will take place in Dublin.

The Fine Gael/Labour approach to constitutional reform is under-ambitious and short-sighted.

Its proposals for the Constitutional Convention fall far short of the type of reform promised especially by Labour before entering government.

Despite this Sinn Féin is determined to put a number of crucial issues on the agenda at the convention, including voting rights for citizens in the North and for Irish emigrants.

During my recent visit to the USA and Canada I urged the Irish diaspora in those countries to engage with the convention and make demands of it. I also urge citizens in the north to make their voices heard on this. The Irish government is contemplating giving the vote to Irish citizens in Presidential elections outside the state but not in the north.

This is not acceptable. Only by lobbying and raising the demand for the vote will it be possible to move the convention beyond the narrow remit it has been set by the government.

A Border Poll

In the New year Sinn Féin will be launching our campaign to secure a border poll.

This is a part of the Good Friday Agreement. Responding to remarks I made in New York on this recently Nigel Dodds of the DUP said unionists had no concerns about a border poll. He actually claimed that I am "detached from reality”.

According to Nigel, "The DUP is not concerned about the likelihood of such a poll being held, nor are we worried about what the outcome would be”. His party Leader Peter Robinson echoed this at his party conference on Saturday.

Well if that is true and not just bravado then I expect to receive their support when we begin our campaign for a border poll in the new year. Let the DUP put their confidence to the test.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement there is now only a qualified, conditional claim by the British on the north and this will change when a majority of citizens vote for an end to the union.
The Good Friday Agreement therefore provides for a border poll on Irish unity and Sinn Féin wants that poll held in the upcoming period.

Of course, this means building support for a poll and for a vote in favour of ending partition. I believe we can do this. The economic and political dynamic for the 21st century is for greater co-operation and harmonisation. Common sense, as well as the logic of history, advocates Irish unity.

It would reduce government costs, make for more efficient governance, create new jobs and guarantee stability and peace.

I am convinced that it is possible to persuade a majority of citizens that this is the best way forward. That equality and unity is better.

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