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A Better way forward is available - Mitchel McLaughlin MLA

6 January, 2010

A Better way forward is available - Mitchel McLaughlin MLA


Dialogue between republicanism and Unionism has always been difficult. But it was only through dialogue that we were able to foster and develop the present peace and political process, however fragile that may be. Genuine dialogue based on respect and equality still remains critical to progress the overall situation but particularly to resolve the current difficulties threatening political stability. Because of the experience of conflict and division, all too often political opponents are viewed with suspicion.


Too many within political unionism seem to view the process from the point of, if nationalists want it, even if it will enhance the lives of the unionist people as well, then it is nevertheless bad for unionism. Political unionism over the years has suffered from a leadership that has fluctuated between supremacist arrogance and a fearful, inarticulate uncertainty. This instilled a fear in many Unionists that, if respective roles were ever reversed, nationalists would imitate the sectarian excesses of Unionism.


Republicans must deal with these fears by redoubling our efforts to communicate with the unionist constituency directly, with a reassuring message that under no circumstances will we visit upon any section of society the exclusion, domination and discrimination from which we are emerging.


Republicans want peace and democratic change and are convinced that, unless radical decisions are agreed with the various representatives of unionism, then we are in danger of condemning future generations to continued conflict.


I believe that there is a better way forward. The British Government, which is not trusted or respected by any constituency in Ireland, has been the common denominator that has subjugated and divided the people of Ireland for generations. I believe that with patience and in a spirit of mutual respect that nationalists and unionists can agree on their relationships to and with each other in peaceful co-existence on this island without the British Government setting the terms.


Republicanism and unionism must reach a sustainable compromise through respectful dialogue, grounded in anti-sectarianism that will move us beyond the impasse of the present into a bright future that will cherish all our people equally. To achieve that, we must explore how we can accommodate each other’s aspirations in a manner which does not demand the surrender of cultural or traditional identity. Together, we must determine the terms of our relationship to this island. What is needed is a determined, strong leadership that does not seek a selfish outcome for our respective constituencies but one which will bring real benefit to all. We must show courage and respect in our dealings with each other and in the management of the process of continued change.


Republicans believe that Irish unity, on the basis of equality, offers the best future for all the people of this island. Therefore it is our responsibility to spell out to unionists what sort of united Ireland we seek and to reassure the unionist people of their place in an Ireland of equals. Whilst we demand the entitlement to promote and to persuade for our vision of a United Ireland, we are also open to engage with unionism on their vision for the future. We’re willing to listen to unionism about why they believe the union is the best option. Opening up a public debate around these key issues can provide a better way forward.

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