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Sinn Féin Ard Fheis. Saoirse O'Neill speaking on Irish Unity and Youth

13 April, 2013

Saoirse O\Neill - Irish Unity and Youth


This generation needs to be a generation of ‘impatient republicans’ and as impatient republicans the reunification of our country is an urgent priority and vital objective.

That’s why we are launching this border poll campaign to encourage our generation to get involved in the struggle to smash partition.

In the North, with all the benefits of peace, comes a semblance of normality. And while the majority of the nationalist community is behind our project, the danger of apathy setting in is difficult to avoid. Young people in particular, many of whom have little to no memory of conflict, are particularly susceptible.

The urgency of what we intend to achieve must be communicated in simple and clear terms, and indeed we have to listen to their perspective on what partition means to them. For a lot of young people, it’s things like two mobile phone networks, two sets of currency, language rights, the British Army presence and public services being duplicated.

We will continue to promote national consciousness and develop a unitary Irish identity that we can all – nationalist, unionist and other – be proud of.

We need to communicate this, to paraphrase Margaret Thatcher, ‘Ballymena is as Irish as Ballymun.’

A combination of a partitionist media, hostile to republicanism, an establishment comfortable with the status quo, and an underlying mentality that the national question is settled means that support for reunification isn’t what it should or could be.

It isn’t exactly on top of the agenda for most people so it’s abundantly clear we need to get the national question back on the agenda and being debated.

We need to make it clear that a united Ireland would not be a ‘26-County state deluxe’ but something new, a clean break.  After all, this isn’t about lines on maps: it’s about making the quality of life better for everyone.

But it’s not just the wider nationalist community who have to be engaged with. If we really want a united Ireland it’s up to us to persuade the open-minded people who have no ideological attachment to either unionism, or republicanism; to persuade people that we can afford a united Ireland and that the quality of public services wouldn’t deteriorate in a united Ireland.

More than that we need to persuade them that a united Ireland is economically and democratically the most viable option.

This campaign will be taking on our traditional objective, quite simply ‘The reconquest of Ireland by the people of Ireland’, in an innovative and imaginative way, widening the debate and mobilising Irish youth.

There will be videos, talks, debates, publications, protests and murals, along with some more unconventional methods.

How well will it work? As impatient republicans, our success will be measured simply by how long we have to wait.

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