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McLaughlin - Sinn Féin preparing for Irish unity

23 September, 2003

Speaking at a conference in Stormont entitled 'Building for Irish re-unification' Sinn Féin Chairperson Mitchel McLaughlin said:

"Today Sinn Féin TDs, MPs, former MLAs and councillors, and members from across the island are meeting to discuss the strategies needed to develop and consolidate the All Ireland architecture and the momentum for Irish re-unification.

" The Good Friday Agreement is about a new political dispensation on the island of Ireland and a new relationship between Ireland and Britain. Strand 2 - the All Ireland framework - creates a dynamic that some have attempted to frustrate and dilute. But it has also seen much progress and pragmatic, even positive, responses from across the political spectrum. For Irish republicans there is clearly a focus on Strand 2 and on consolidating and developing the All Ireland architecture. Our republicanism is about change - fundamental, deep-rooted change. It's about empowering people to make that change.

" Yet if we are to build on the momentum for Irish re-unification engagement with unionists is vital. We have to show unionists that Irish republicanism - is a fundamental part of their future. That together we can build a future of equals on this island that empowers, protects and enriches everyone. There will be a united Ireland. And our task, and that of all sensible Irish political leaders, should be to prepare for reunification. This is a challenge not just for Sinn Féin and republicans and nationalists but also for the unionist community and leadership of Unionism.

" The challenge is to develop new strategies that can address issues within an All Ireland context such as economic investment and infrastructure, the future of our farming and fishing communities, a better future for rural Ireland and unleashing the potential of us all working together on this small island.Ireland is a country that has many divisions and wounds. Yet, it is shaped by its people and their common concerns. The many areas where deeper integration, harmonisation, sharing of resources and expertise will bring benefits have been clearly identified.

" But the reality is that in many areas of policy and practice the All Ireland approach is not just beneficial but crucial if we are to create a better future for everyone living on this island - for rural communities, in developing our economy and infrastructure, in improving access to quality services, in challenging social exclusion and disadvantage. The seeds of social, economic, spatial reintegration have already been sown - they now need to be developed in a way that promotes balance and equality. A way that creates opportunity and unleashes the potential of re-unification." ENDS

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