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Unionists have nothing to fear from a united Ireland - Crowe

3 November, 2005


Sinn Féin TD Seán Crowe has has said, “Only on the basis of real and meaningful engagement can we make progress on peace, and reconciliation and resolve our differences.” Speaking on the Sinn Féin Private Members Motion on Irish Unity this morning he said, “Unionists have absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from a united Ireland.”

Deputy Crowe said, “I believe it is imperative that we are open in the debate here and in the wider engagement with all those people that live on, and share space on this island. Only on the basis of real and meaningful engagement can we make progress on peace, and reconciliation and resolve our differences.

“Sinn Fein wants to see all those who say they believe in Irish unity begin the important work to persuade the unionist community of the advantages of reunification. I say this knowing that there is much work ahead of us and I say this respecting the right of those from the unionist community to maintain their British identity.

“When Sinn Fein speaks of Irish unity we mean more than the removal of partition; we mean also, the unity of the people of Ireland. We seek a process of national reconciliation an end to sectarianism, a unity of purpose.

“When we say to Unionists that yes we unashamedly advocate a United Ireland we do so not to antagonize them but because it makes economic and social sense. And not just for Republicans but for all the people of Ireland,North and South East and West, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, Muslim and Jew, Agnostic and Atheist.

“Unionism should not underestimate the political clout they will have in a united Ireland.  They will go from being a tiny minority to something like 20% of the population.

“Surely a united Ireland would represent a real opportunity for unionists to exert real control over their destiny. Those from a Unionist background will be significant players in any New Ireland which is in stark contrast to their current position. They will have the ability to implement coherent social and economic policies on the basis of Ireland as a whole rather than have them decided in Westminster where their interests must be negotiated with Britain.

“Unionists have absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from a united Ireland.  It is inevitable and we ask you to join us as partners in building a New Ireland. Sinn Fein believes that the practical planning for a united Ireland should begin now.” ENDS

Full text of speech follows:

Standing here today I am convinced that we are closer than we have ever been to Irish re-unification.  I have absolutely no doubts about this. As an active Irish republican I am of course more interested in what type of United Ireland will emerge. Will it be an inclusive Ireland where the natural resources and enormous wealth of the country will be used for the benefit of people regardless of their class or creed or where they reside.

Of course there are those who argue that we as advocates of Irish unity should remain silent about our political objective.

They claim that even to state such an objective is unhelpful and would increase tensions as efforts are made to restore the institutions established under the Good Friday agreement.

I don’t agree with this position.

I believe it is imperative that we are open in the debate here and in the wider engagement with all those people that live on, and share space on this island. Only on the basis of real and meaningful engagement can we make progress on peace, and reconciliation and resolve our differences.

Sinn Fein wants to see all those who say they believe in Irish unity begin the important work to persuade the unionist community of the advantages of reunification. I say this knowing that there is much work ahead of us and I say this respecting the right of those from the unionist community to maintain their British identity.

It is obvious that there is a huge gulf of distrust and mis-understanding on all sides.

More than a decade into the peace process with all the initiatives taken by republicans and the policy changes that republicans have made, unionists remain sceptical about our sincerity.

How much of this has to do with the failure of the leaders of unionism over the last ten years is of course a matter for debate. 

There is no doubt that many unionist leaders are either opposed to change or are reluctant to embrace it. They certainly do not encourage dialogue between communities.

There is also no doubt that many of the people we engage with are much more open minded about the need for change and dialogue than their political leaders.

This proves for me the potential there is for change once real dialogue takes place.

I want to say that while we are committed to developing dialogue. I am also struck by the fact that there is unfortunately a blind spot among all shades of unionism about their role in the conflict.

They seem not to realise the impact on northern catholics and nationalists of the years between 1920 and 1969 when a protestant and unionist state was imposed on us and those who lived through those years, never mind the role of unionism right up to this very day.

Obviously in our journey towards real equality in the north, those within unionism who had previously enjoyed and prospered during the years of discrimination and injustice will feel threatened.

In some cases this sense of alienation has been exacerbated the collapse of the traditional unionist industries such as shipbuilding. But none of this can be an excuse for further stalling the process of change or delaying the basic rights and entitlements demanded by the Good Friday Agreement.

In my opinion these are just some of the difficult realities that we have to deal with. But no matter how difficult are the obstacles to dialogue they are they need to be tackled; they need to be overcome.

Republicans know that the task is not easy; indeed it is formidable. We are trying to unravel centuries of conflict; centuries of living separately on a very small island.

We republicans know it is going to take time and political change before we arrive at a satisfactory point where we can say we have really begun the journey of genuine national reconciliation.

I want to say from this chamber, to the unionist community in particular, and ask for your endorsement, that Sinn Fein is committed to building the peace, promoting national reconciliation, developing our own party's consciousness and structures which will enable us to genuinely reach out to unionists and the broader protestant community.

When Sinn Fein speaks of Irish unity we mean more than the removal of partition; we mean also, the unity of the people of Ireland. We seek a process of national reconciliation an end to sectarianism, a unity of purpose.

When we say to Unionists that yes we unashamedly advocate a United Ireland we do so not to antagonize them but because it makes economic and social sense. And not just for Republicans but for all the people of Ireland,North and South East and West, Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter, Muslim and Jew, Agnostic and Atheist.

We have consistently urged an Island wide approach in key policy areas including the economy, health, education, employment, agriculture culture, arts and tourism but it must be allowed to develop in a real and meaningful way

Unionism should not underestimate the political clout they will have in a united Ireland.  They will go from being a tiny minority to someonism.  Equality for all and inclusivity were the hallmark of his term in office.

No one was excluded from his office and City Hall was truly open to everyone. Alex strove to represent all the people of Belfast, not just Republicans, as his laying of a wreath at the Cenotaph testifies too.

Civic leaders throughout this island have a role to play also. Indeed previous Mayors of this city, from the various parties in Leinster House, have in the past with varying degrees of success, made real and conscious efforts to reach out to civic leaders from the unionist persuasion in the North. This work should be commended by all here today.

In conclusion let me just say this. Unionists have absolutely nothing to fear and everything to gain from a united Ireland.  It is inevitable and we ask you to join us as partners in building a New Ireland.

Sinn Fein believes that the practical planning for a united Ireland should begin now.

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