Sinn Féin spokesperson for Brexit David Cullinane said today that the December backstop is Ireland’s insurance policy in the event of a hard Brexit, and, as a result, is not an optional addendum to the negotiations.
Speaking in response to Taoiseach Varadkar’s comments that there could be a hard border in the event of a hard Brexit, Deputy Cullinane said:
“The people of Ireland are all too aware of the dangers of a hard Brexit.
“This is why the backstop arrangement needs to be put in place.
“Taoiseach Varadkar has been talking about the need to plan for a hard Brexit - as if the backstop is not such a plan.
“Is it the case that an Taoiseach is now thinking of a hard Brexit scenario where there is not only no withdrawal agreement in place, there is no backstop in place either.
“Where does this leave the cast-iron guarantee he supposedly secured last December?
“There has been a worrying shift in tone from the government over the past two months - from the backstop as a red line to one where is simply forms part of the overall agreement.
“We need clarity on this issue from the government as the backstop is our insurance policy in the event of a no deal Brexit.
“The people of Ireland need to know that both the Irish government and the EU will not allow the British government take the backstop off the table.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson for Transport Imelda Munster TD has called for the National Transport Authority (NTA) to provide local liaison officers to ensure that local representatives and groups have a local point of access to discuss concerns on both MetroLink and BusConnects projects.
Speaking at a meeting of the Joint Oireachtas Transport Committee, Deputy Munster said that it was imperative that local people had ongoing and open access to an NTA staff member with detailed local knowledge of both projects, given the large-scale changes expected in some areas.
Deputy Munster said:
“My office has been inundated with calls and emails from people who are confused and concerned about the plans. There is a view that there is not enough detail available, and that consultation with the NTA has not been sufficient.
“I am encouraging everyone to engage with the ongoing consultation process at BusConnects and the next stages of consultation on the MetroLink project when they commence.
“Further to that, I have asked the NTA to work with Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII) to provide local liaison points of contact to ensure that local concerns can be raised as part of an ongoing, transparent and open process. Communication with communities is key to the success of these projects. We saw the disastrous effect on communities who were excluded from the MetroLink planning process, and I think the NTA should learn from that.
“The NTA are encouraging people to attend public meetings, which is well and good, however not every issue can be addressed at these meetings, and not everyone will be able to attend, especially when some of these meetings are taking place in August when many people are on their holidays.
“I have written to the NTA and TII to encourage them to provide this service to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard.”
Sinn Féin Housing spokesperson Eoin Ó Broin TD has claimed that Rebuilding Ireland is failing to stimulate the delivery of enough new homes. Despite significant subsidies to the private house building sector, delivery is slow and no affordability dividend is being provided.
Deputy Ó Broin said:
“Rebuilding Ireland commits to delivering 25,000 new homes per year. According to the CSO only 14,500 new dwellings were built in 2017.
“Via Rebuilding Ireland the government has introduced a number of incentives to get the private market delivering homes.
“Between the Help to Buy tax break, the €200m Local Infrastructure Housing Activation Fund (LIHAF), Home Building Finance Ireland, the Rebuilding Ireland Home loan the government is offering a slew of tax payer funded incentives with no guarantee of affordability in return.
“Even all these aforementioned incentives combined with the new fast track planning regime and reduced apartment sizes have not led to an adequate ramping up in delivery, with only 3,500 new dwellings completed so far in 2018.
“Stakeholders from across a wide range of sector have voiced their concerns about the lack of supply of affordable homes in towns and cities. In the two years since Rebuilding Ireland was published, not one genuinely affordable home has been delivered via government backed schemes.
“The government needs to accept that increasing supply in and of itself will not reduce costs. This is evidenced by the fact that despite over 93,000 new units being built in 2006 house prices were approaching peak boom prices.
“We need to see state investment on public land in order to deliver homes that are truly affordable for ordinary workers. Until the government begins to see itself as a provider of public housing, the private market will continue delivering for the few."
Speaking in response to research into the views of small and medium-sized (SME) construction firms in the north by the Federation of Master Builders Sinn Féin’s Conor Murphy MLA said:
“Last week Michelle O’Neill and Mary Lou McDonald held a series of meetings with business and industry leaders including Retail NI, the CBI and the Institute of Directors.
“They made it clear that Sinn Féin is committed to the re-establishment of the power sharing institutions.
“We believe that locally elected ministers are best placed to deliver public services, prioritise our own political agenda and with the politics of Brexit also adding to the uncertainty within the sector protect Irish interests north and south.
“Brexit will be bad for the economy on this island, bad for business and investment, bad for farmers, bad for the environment, bad for workers’ and human rights regardless of whatever outcome is reached in the negotiations.
“The only defence against the negative impact of Brexit is for the north to remain in the single market and customs union.
"However, the political institutions must be restored on the basis of genuine power sharing and equality and respect for all.
"The DUP should end its blockade on the delivery of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else in these islands, marriage rights, language rights, women's rights and the right to a legacy inquest.
“The British government must also end its ‘do-nothing’ approach to restoring the institutions as a result of its toxic pact with the DUP and act with the rigorous impartiality required by the Good Friday Agreement.
"Both the British and Irish governments have a responsibility as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure citizens in the north have an equivalence of rights and they must use the British and Irish Intergovernmental Conference to map out a way forward.”
Sinn Féin Welfare Spokesperson Alex Maskey MLA has strongly criticised the British Government after it rejected a cross-party request for a controversial element of the Personal Independence Payments (PIP) for terminally-ill claimants to be amended.
Alex Maskey said: “PIP currently allows for applications to be fast-tracked without an assessment for claimants with a terminal illness who have a life-expectancy of no more than six months. However, the evidence shows that this time period is much too restrictive and should be extended to all those facing a terminal illness.
“Therefore, the five main parties here made a joint request calling on the British Government to scrap the six-month time restriction.
“We have just received the response from the Department for Work and Pensions and it is deeply disappointing that they are standing over the six-month timeframe.
“I believe there can be no justification for this cruel decision as it blatantly ignores the evidence from clinicians and claimants that this rule is adding further trauma to people who are already suffering grievously.
“It is for this reason that the Scottish parliament has already introduced new legislation to rescind the six-month limit and we will continue to lobby for the same to happen here.”
Sinn Féin MLAs Caoimhe Archibald and Karen Mullan held a discussion with young people in Derry on careers and skills for World Youth Skills Day.
The party's Further and Higher Education Spokesperson, Caoimhe Archibald said:
"World Youth Skills Day on 15th July is an annual United Nations event with a focus on the role of technical and vocational education can play in eradicating youth unemployment and poverty.
"Karen Mullan MLA and myself hosted a discussion with some young people along with speakers from North West Regional College, Enterprise North West and Derry Youth & Community Workshop on the various opportunities available for young people in terms of training and education.
"Technical and professional education plays a key role in skills training and development so it is important young people are aware of all the opportunities available to them.
"Part of our discussion focused on the careers advice young people receive, the need to ensure young people are well-informed on their options and the role of schools in this.
"There is an important discussion which needs to take place around how education is delivered to meet the needs of young people as well as addressing skills gaps.
"Youth unemployment and educational underachievement are challenges which must be addressed and where there are models of delivery which are effective these should be built upon."
JOINT STATEMENT FROM THE PARTIES ON EU EXIT
"We are at a crucial point in the Brexit negotiations. Guarantees were given in the Joint Report between the British government and the EU in December that there would be no diminution of rights as a result of Brexit, on the rights of people resident here and that the Good Friday Agreement would be protected.
“These guarantees have yet to be fully translated into legally binding text and reflected in the Draft Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland.
“Significant areas of concern remain, and there is little sign of any tangible progress on a range of important matters, including: continued access to third-level study with status of EU students; continued access to the European Health Insurance Card; continued provision for cross-border health services, such as the Northwest Cancer Centre and the Children’s Heart Centre; and safeguards for EEA migrant workers in Northern Ireland, as well as a broad range of other areas reflected in our earlier Joint Declaration on Human Rights and Equality.
“We note the proposals put forward by civic society groups for amendments to the Draft Protocol and we urge further dialogue and consideration of changes to ensure that the Protocol is amended in a manner that faithfully reflects and translates into law all rights and equality commitments made in the first phase of the negotiations."
Agreed and co-signed by;
Michelle O’Neill MLA, Assembly Leader and Vice-President of Sinn Féin
Colum Eastwood MLA, Leader of the Social Democratic and Labour party
Naomi Long MLA, Leader of the Alliance party for Northern Ireland
Steven Agnew MLA, Leader of the Green party NI
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion said the DUP must demand the resignation of North Antrim MP Ian Paisley Jnr after a damning report found he had failed to declare two family holidays paid for by the Sri Lankan government and then wrote to the British Prime Minister in 2014 to lobby against supporting a UN resolution on Sri Lanka.
Elisha McCallion said:
“This is an issue of integrity in government and in public office.
“Sinn Féin stood last year in an election on a platform of equality, rights and integrity in government.
“This followed a number of scandals involving the DUP in government, including RHI, Nama, and Red Sky, which had damaged public confidence in the DUP’s behaviour in the political institutions.
“Since then there have been further allegations linked to the DUP’s Dark Money.
“Therefore there is an onus on the DUP to act decisively when wrongdoing has been exposed as is the case with Ian Paisley Junior. There should be zero tolerance of abuse of public office for personal benefit.
“Ian Paisley Jnr should step down and resign with immediate effect. If he is not prepared to do the right thing then the DUP must demand his resignation.
“If Ian Paisley or the DUP do not do the right thing then it is entirely legitimate for the electorate of North Antrim to exercise its right to force a by election.”
Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Communications Brian Stanley TD said that the attitude of Facebook to what it deems acceptable content is appalling, and indicates, yet again, the need for an end to self-regulation in the industry.
Teachta Stanley said:
“The revelation last night was alarming, that violent videos and racist images were being judged acceptable content by Facebook, and allowed on its platform. This clearly demonstrates a need for major changes needed now.
“Social media plays a large part in how people now communicate and receive their news. However, it is afflicted with huge problems in fake news, lack of transparency, and unacceptable content.
“Facebook executives must be questioned before the Oireachtas Communications Committee. The digital age of self–regulation is over and we need to have a legislative structure in place to protect individual citizens from both exploitation and offence, whilst maintaining freedom of speech.”
Commenting on news that offices belonging to the Rainbow Project were been broken into, ransacked and burgled, Newry & Armagh MP Mickey Brady said:
“I am deeply disappointed to learn that offices belonging to the Rainbow Project were burgled just over a week before the start of Belfast Pride.
“The Rainbow Project provide an invaluable service to many in the community and will continue to do so.
“Those engaged in these criminal attacks on people’s property need to face the full rigours of the law.
“I would appeal to anyone with information about this burglary to contact the PSNI.”
Speaking today, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD said:
“Since the Brexit vote in Britain, the process has been marked by the British government changing positions, stalling, and making and breaking agreements.
“Today, the Cabinet will meet to discuss contingency plans for various Brexit scenarios. That is the right and sensible thing to do.
“It should be remembered that, in December, the Taoiseach made clear that the ‘backstop’ was the contingency plan and that this was a cast iron guarantee.
“Last week, I asked the Taoiseach about the ‘backstop’ as agreed in December. At the time, the Taoiseach equivocated and failed to stand over the backstop as agreed.
“Since then, we have seen further chaos in Britain with emboldened Brexiteers seeking to abandon the December backstop altogether.
“Our citizens, our economy, and our businesses require certainty.
“There have been reports that the EU is preparing to amend the backstop arrangements. We need clarity on this point.
“The Taoiseach is outlining plans for failure, but has yet to outline his plan for success.
“He needs to make clear, with our EU partners, that they still stand over the backstop as agreed, that will make good on the agreement made in December, and how they intend to bring legal clarity and certainty in advance of the withdrawal agreement.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Health Pat Sheehan is calling on the Belfast Trust to assist a West Belfast man suffering from a severe form of epilepsy who is seeking access to medicinal cannabis.
The West Belfast MLA said: "Today I facilitated a meeting between the Belfast Trust and the family of Patrick McMahon.
"Patrick suffers from a severe form of epilepsy called Lennox Gastaut Syndrome which causes multiple seizures on a daily basis.
"As a result of these seizures Patrick has sustained a number of serious injuries in falls including broken bones, lacerations and burns.
"Patrick's doctor believes he could benefit from a cannabis based medicine called Epidiolex, which is available via a compassionate access programme. However, Patrick is facing difficulties in accessing it.
"At today's meeting I expressed the urgency of Patrick's situation to the Belfast Trust and sought further clarification on what can be done to ensure he receives necessary treatment.
"I will continue to support Patrick and the McMahon family in their efforts to secure the care he needs."
Sinn Féin Finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has called for the regulation of receivers to be put in place.
The Donegal TD said it was frustrating that years after he first raised the issue it is still being kicked around working groups and draft reports and has called for it to be put on the political agenda in the Dáil’s Autumn session.
Teachta Doherty said:
“The lack of regulation of receivers is an issue that is raised with me on an ongoing basis. Small businesses, tenants and homeowners all find themselves dealing with receivers in difficult circumstances.
"Unlike liquidators and examiners there is practically no regulation of this group of people.
"I have had contact with many businesses , tenants and others unhappy with how the receivers appointed have acted.
"The allegations range from feeling intimidated by hired agents of the receivers, problems related to the taxation arrangements under receivership and accusations that the receivers are undermining the potential survival of businesses and simply acting in effect as liquidators.
"In January 2016 the then Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald wrote to me after I raised the lack of regulation in the Dáil to say that the Company Law Review Group was looking at the issue.
"Now two and a half years later the new Minister has informed me that a Working Group on Receivers is discussing the issue and hope to present a report soon.
"To date, NAMA inform me, it has paid out €129m to receivers. Over this period the banks have employed receivers thousands of times- all without regulation.
"This issue must be tackled urgently. Receivers must be brought fully under the regulatory system so that homeowners, businesses and tenants can exercise their rights.”
Sinn Féin Finance Spokesperson Pearse Doherty TD has said the leaked details of the Central Bank’s Report on the culture in Irish banking contain some positive points, but that the Irish people don’t need a report from the Central Bank to tell them that the banks have failed to put the interests of customers first and that the suggestions have already been publicly made by the Central Bank.
The Donegal TD added the report only strengthens the need for the government to actively support his Central Bank (Amendment) Bill which would impose penalties on bankers who lie to the Central Bank.
Deputy Doherty said:
“The details about the report contain some positive elements but these suggestions are already known to government because they formed the basis of the Central Bank’s submission to the Law Reform Commission on this issue. Central to this submission was the call for individuals to be held accountable for their actions. This is something I have long called for and have legislation awaiting a money message from government to progress. They should now release this message and allow the Bill to progress and pass. The Bill would impose jail time on bankers who lie to the Central Bank.
“I have consistently called for measures to bring individual accountability to the banking sector. Before the Dáil recess I again called on the government to bring forward a suite of measures such as setting up a dedicated unit within an existing criminal agency for investigation and prosecution to deal with white-collar crime and holding individuals responsible for actions by the bank under their watch even after they retire. These recommendations must be progressed on the back of this report.
“I believe for the thousands of families caught up in the tracker mortgages or in dispute with the banks over arrears or other issues the report’s finding that the banks have failed to put the consumer first will hardly be news. The cultural problems go deeper than any report can solve. The tracker issue itself was a symptom of the poisonous culture but so too was the reaction and the still ongoing efforts of the banks to minimise the numbers affected and to adopt a combative approach to some groups of impacted families.
“I await the full report with interest but more importantly I await concrete legislative proposals that make individual accountability central in Irish law. This will challenge the government to overcome its ‘banks first’ policy and for once to adopt a ‘consumer first’ attitude.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Christopher Jackson has condemned those behind a security alert in the Irish Street area of Derry.
Cllr. Jackson said:
"The security alert in Bann Drive has caused significant disruption to local residents this morning with many homes being evacuated and the street closed.
"Those responsible for this disruption have shown complete disregard for the people of the Waterside.
"Attacks such as this must be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
"There can be no justification for this type of activity and I would appeal to anyone with information to contact the police."
Sinn Féin MP Elisha McCallion has expressed condolences following the death of a 16-year old boy and a man in his 60s in a boating tragedy in Donegal.
The Foyle MP said:
“The city is shocked and saddened to learn that a 16-year-old boy from Derry has died along with a man in his 60s in this tragedy at Malin.
“This is terrible news for any family to receive and my thoughts are with them at this difficult time.
“It must also have been a traumatic experience for those holidaymakers who saw the boat get into difficulty and raised the alarm.
“I want to commend the action of the lifeboat crews involved in the rescue effort and hope those injured can make a full recovery.
“Our sympathies and condolences go to those bereaved by this tragedy and I’m sure the communities in both Derry and Donegal will support them in the time ahead.”
Sinn Féin MLAs Colm Gildernew and Ian Milne meet with the Human Rights Commission to discuss the recent Commission for Older People’s report into Dunmurry Manor care home.
Following the meeting the party spokesperson on carers Colm Gildernew said, “We had a productive meeting with the HRC this afternoon on how we can ensure the highest quality and standards for adult social care in line with the COPNI's recommendations.
“The Older Person's Commissioner's report should be a catalyst for much-needed systemic change in adult social care.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for Older people Ian Milne added,
“It is important that any wrong doing is identified, reported and dealt with in a timely and effective manner. Everyone in care, regardless of their age, must have their rights and dignity respected. The COPNI report raises serious concerns about the adult social care system and we are determined to ensure these concerns are fully addressed.”
Sinn Féin MLA Pat Sheehan has called on the international community to take immediate action to bring an end to the war against the Palestinian people.
The call comes after two more Palestinians were killed by Israeli airstrikes over the weekend in the Gaza Strip.
The West Belfast MLA said:
"I condemn the brutal and violent actions of the Israeli forces who have killed two more Palestinians by airstrikes over the weekend in Gaza.
“Over 130 Palestinians have been murdered by Israeli forces since March 2018. This is a massacre and would not be accepted anywhere else in the world.
“But the international community remain silent. The routine statements of ‘concern’ must translate into sanction. Israeli cannot be allowed to act with impunity for committing state murder.
“The Irish government must take the lead and send the Israeli ambassador home and immediately recognise the State of Palestine as approved by the Dáil over four years ago.
“The passing of the Occupied Territories Bill in the Seanad is a momentous step towards banning the import and sale of goods, services and natural resources which come from Israeli settlements.
“Sinn Féin will continue to argue for justice, rights and peace in Palestine and make our voice heard against the abuse of International Law which damages the two-state solution.”
Sinn Féin spokesperson for LGBTQI rights Senator Fintan Warfield has welcoming the passing of Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Bill 2018 through the Oireachtas today. This legislation will allow for commencement of parts 2 and 3 of the primary legislation, which will give shared parental rights to certain same sex parents and give recognition to their families.
Senator Warfield said:
“Today is a really important day in the lives of many LGBTQ parents and their families and a proud day for those who vigorously campaigned to that end. It has been hard fought for and long overdue.
“Three years on from marriage equality, Government have finally corrected technical errors that left legal uncertainties for parents and their children.
“While this legislation covers those who conceived through clinical insemination, many more LGBTQ families are waiting for government action on the likes of surrogacy, home insemination and reciprocal IVF.
“Sinn Féin will be working to ensure that the Assisted Human Reproduction Bill will be fully inclusive of the needs of all LGBTQ families.”
Matt Carthy MEP was the main speaker at a commemoration for Patrick McManus and James Crossan at the outskirts of Swanlinbar, Co. Cavan last Sunday. McManus and Crossan were IRA Volunteers who were killed in the summer of 1958.
At a well attended event on Sunday members of the local community were joined by Republicans from across counties Cavan, Fermanagh, Monaghan, Leitrim, Tyrone and Roscommon. Elected representatives in attendance included Fermanagh South Tyrone MP, Michelle Gildernew, her constituency MLA colleague, Seán Lynch, Sligo Leitrim TD Martin Kenny and local councillor, Damian Brady. Matt Carthy’s running mate for the upcoming Cavan Monaghan General Election, Pauline Tully, was also in attendance.
During the course of his address, Matt Carthy said:
“It’s an honour to be speaking here at this commemoration of Volunteers Patrick McManus and James Crossan.
“The fact that we are all meeting here today to remember them, sixty years after their deaths in the summer of 1958, is testament to the esteem in which Patrick and James are held – for their vision, their courage, and their sacrifice.
The loss of these two young men in the struggle for Irish freedom remains a painful legacy and has deeply affected this border community.
“I especially want to pay tribute to the members of the families of these men who are here with us today.
“IRA Volunteer Patrick McManus was OC of the IRA’s South Fermanagh Brigade. He died on an isolated country road on the border, very near here, on this day in 1958 when a bomb he was transporting exploded prematurely.
“Patrick’s death took place in the context of a series of IRA attacks across the Six Counties on 15, 16 and 17 July.
“James Crossan, the Sinn Féin Organiser for County Cavan, was assassinated by the RUC on 24 August 1958. That Sunday evening sixty years ago, James had travelled to Swanlinbar to procure a Tricolour to fly at a Sinn Féin meeting planned for the following night in Ballyconnell.
“He and his neighbour offered others a lift to the border and then walked with them over the crossing. As the unarmed James Crossan walked back to the car, he was shot dead by RUC assassins lying in wait on the Cavan side of the border.
“The RUC’s attempted cover-up about the circumstances of this assassination quickly failed as the truth became clear.
“The Resistance Campaign that began in December 1956 took place in an incredibly oppressive and difficult context.
“The campaign occurred in an Ireland stunted by conservatism North and South and marked by economic stagnation and gross inequality leading to massive unemployment and emigration.
“The campaign was met with internment without trial both sides of the border, with harassment and repression.
“But it showed that despite the restraints imposed on people across this island, there were still young Irish men and women willing to risk their lives to achieve a truly free nation. Thousands of people attended the funerals of the volunteers who lost their lives during this campaign.
“This spark of resistance in dark times showed the world that Irish freedom was unfinished business, and it inspired a new generation of republicans. The men and women of that Republican generation deserve our recognition and gratitude.
“Republicans had always made clear that if a peaceful and democratic path of struggle towards our objectives was opened up then we were morally and politically obliged to take that path.
“The recent peace process opened that new way forward and the IRA, with the same courage they showed during every phase of the struggle, endorsed that new strategy, that new road to our objectives, and set aside armed actions for good.
“The peace process must be built upon and this is a work in progress, as the display of sectarianism we have seen over the past weeks in the North has shown.
“Sinn Féin remains committed to re-establishing the power-sharing Executive and Assembly in the North. But we need partners who are willing to govern for all citizens on the basis of equality and respect – partners who accept that citizens have rights which cannot be denied any longer.
“Some of the challenges that we face today are very different from those we have faced in the past – but our goals of achieving a united Irish republic based on equality and social justice remain the same.
“Undoing Partition and its effects continues to be central to the building of a progressive, inclusive, open and forward-looking society.
“Here in this state, some combination of Fine Gael, Labour and Fianna Fáil have been in power since Partition.
“Between them they built a conservative and corrupt state with an economy designed to serve the interests of the few – the wealthy, privileged minority. The housing and homelessness crisis, and the crisis in our health service today are clear indicators that these parties continue to fail the Irish people.
“In order to change this country for the better, Sinn Féin wants to be in government North and South. But not at any price. We don't want to be part of the system. We want to change the system.
“We will only participate in a government based on equality, that improves people’s lives and reflects our republican ideals.
“Here in this part of the country, the challenge of Brexit and the prospect of a hardening of the border are foremost in our minds.
“The approach of the chaotic and divided British Tories in these negotiations has been to put Ireland last. The Irish government and the EU need to make it clear that Ireland needs to come first. We will not be collateral damage in the Tory Brexit.
“In recent days we have seen the British government’s White Paper on the future of Britain’s relationship with the EU.
“Sinn Féin welcomes the commitment to no hard border on the island of Ireland, a commitment to the letter and spirit and of the Good Friday Agreement, and the commitment to a backstop for the Island of Ireland.
“But we were given these commitments as part of the agreement last December, and we had been promised legal clarity and certainty by March of this year and again in June.
“We urgently need legal certainty about post-Brexit arrangements in Ireland for our political and economic stability.
“It is well past time to move beyond promises. What is required is immediate and urgent negotiations to deliver clarity and certainty on Ireland’s interests and the rights of citizens.
“The challenge of Brexit is changing attitudes towards Irish reunification. Brexit is clearly causing people to question the constitutional future of the North and encouraging support for an all-island economic, political and social framework.
“Poll after poll in the past two years have shown a consistent rise in the proportion of people who say they would vote for a united Ireland. This trend is most pronounced among young people.
“Such a significant change in attitudes represents a historic opportunity for all those of who support a united Ireland to act together to win a referendum on Irish unity in the near future, a right provided for under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
“A referendum on a United Ireland is an explicit provision of the Good Friday Agreement, supported by an overwhelming majority of voters on this island two decades ago.
“Now is the time for all of us who believe a united Ireland will provide a better future - parties, community groups, trade unions, businesses and individuals - to work together to seize this historic opportunity. We need to build popular support for the demand for a referendum while also working patiently to convince those who disagree that their interests will be represented in s new Ireland, and that their voices will be heard and respected.
“Like the many other Volunteers and republicans of their generation, Patrick McManus and James Crossan carried our struggle, our hopes and our ideals through incredibly difficult times. They remain for us an inspiration.
“The sacrifices of the past have unlocked the door to change and now as a people all that remains is for us to open it.
“Our republican vision is inspired by the sacrifice of our patriot dead but reinforced by our obligation to the children of the present and future generations.
“There are no limits to what we can do or the potential of our political strength. It is an important time for new members to become involved and help organise Sinn Féin in every community and neighbourhood. Our party wants you talent, ideas and energy.
“Today Irish unity is on the immediate political agenda. It is a realisable goal. Together, and with the memory of Patrick and James in our hearts, we will achieve it. That is the only fitting tribute to their memory and their sacrifice.
“I hope we can go from here today with renewed momentum and confidence and make that vision our shared reality”.