Sinn Féin MEP Liadh Ní Riada has said Irish reunification is now a political necessity.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking at the United Ireland conference in Cork at the weekend.
Ms Ní Riada, who sits on the EU Budgets Committee, said social, political and economic circumstances meant Irish reunification was the only realistic, long term solution to the challenges we face.
“Reunification can no longer be something to talk about when the time is right.
“The time is now. Others may not want to face up to it but the fact is reunification is no longer a political desire but a political necessity.
“The question is not whether or not we can afford reunification, the question is can we afford to continue to subsidise partition at the expense of our economy, at the expense of our country and at the expense of our childrens’ future?”
FULL TEXT OF SPEECH
Before we begin let me just take this opportunity to welcome our new Uachtarán agus Leas Uachtarán on their first official visit to Cork.
Neither Mary Lou nor Michelle are strangers to Cork in fact it may surprise some of you to find out that Michelle is actually a Cork woman herself. I knew she didn’t pick up that rapid fire speech in Tyrone.
I am not one for putting great stock into the coincidences of times and dates, I believe we forge our own destiny, but I must admit there is something poetic that as this year we remember the centenary of women achieving the vote and the election of the first ever female MP, the incomparable Constance Markievicz, that our party should find itself lead by two women, extraordinary in their own right.
So let me start by misquoting James Connolly.
The cause of women is the cause of Ireland and the cause of Ireland is the cause of women.
Far be it from me to tweak the great man’s words but they do ring true.
Women have always been to the forefront of the Irish freedom struggle even if they haven’t always been seen to be at the forefront of it.
When you look at the history of the north, it quickly becomes quite clear that partition has failed the people there; and failed all of them, unionist and nationalist.
But what you hear less about is how partition has failed the people of this state as well. The imposition of checkpoints and the blocking of border roads didn’t just economically devastate communities on the northern side of the border. It cut parishes in half, destroyed local businesses and forced young people away from home and indeed out of the country to find work.
Partition has been an impediment to this country achieving its true economic potential for almost a century now. Study after study has confirmed this, the latest of which, Dr Kurt Hubner’s peer reviewed paper, Modelling Irish Unification, concluded that Irish unity could benefit the Irish economy by €35.6 billion over the first 8 years. It is well past time we said enough.
Reunification is not just a northern issue. We do not intend to stick six dysfunctional counties onto 26 dysfunctional counties. Reunification is about building a new, fairer Ireland with equality at its heart and that means that we all must prepare to play our part in building that.
This is a task that belongs to everyone, not just Sinn Féín, so one of our core recommendations has been that the government start establishing an all-party group to bring forward a Green Paper for Unity. Anything less would display a reckless lack of responsibility from the government during what is the biggest political shake up here since partition.
There is now an urgent need for an inclusive, constructive debate on the future, including how a United Ireland will be brought about and what it might look like.
Crucially, we want to get to the facts of the issue and dismiss the lies, propaganda and half truths. There have been a string of independent papers and studies released over the past number of years, all of which point to reunification being the only way forward for Ireland.
Economic Consultant and former senior international economist at Citibank in London Michael Burke, summed up his report to the European Parliament on the Irish economy by saying “quite simply put, the whole population of Ireland would benefit economically from reunification.”
There are no counter reports outlining how partition is working for Ireland.
And all of this is before we even mention the B word. Brexit. The looming exit from the EU, being imposed against the expressed will of people in the north, makes this issue all the more urgent.
Just this week a leaked British Government report revealed that regardless of wether it is a hard or soft Brexit, it will have a hugely damaging effect on the British economy. Typically, it paid little heed to the Irish economy, north or south, but every expert agrees that Ireland will be hardest hit by Brexit.
It will have a devastating effecting on this country, north and south. Sinn Féin is fighting to gain special status for the north within the EU but the only long term solution to this issue is reunification.
A united Ireland makes sense in terms of the economy, public services, investment, exports, agriculture, policing and justice and sport.
There are no advantages for a small island of 6.4 million people on the edge of Europe in having two separate tax regimes, legal systems, and competing economic development programmes and certainly no advantages to one section of the island being in the EU, the other out.
Removing barriers to trade, created by the border will lead to significant economic growth across the island.
A united Ireland would allow us to build a truly National Health Service.
Sinn Féin wants to see a new Ireland where citizens have the right to a job, to a home, and a decent standard of education.
A new, united Ireland must deliver new politics and fundamentally change the political status quo north and south.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for peaceful and democratic constitutional change through concurrent referendums north and south.
Securing a referendum on Irish unity would be an historic opportunity for all the people of Ireland, allowing us to vote for the kind of government and society we wish to see.
Sinn Féin has called for a Unity Poll and we are seeking an informed, reasoned and respectful dialogue on the issue.
Now is the time to plan and to build the maximum support for unity. The leadership of those political parties which say they support Irish unity, acting together, could provide the leadership to deliver it.
Brexit means that reunification is no longer something that is just desirable. It is no longer something that can be put on the long finger by other parties who claim to support it and talk wistfully about how it would be nice in the future. There can now be no denying that it is absolutely essential for the future growth of this country.
One way or the other, change is coming. We can either let that change happen around us or we can craft it ourselves. Here is where we begin that change. In rooms like this, right across the country, simply by having the conversation and more importantly, by going from here and having that same conversation with your friends and families, in your clubs and communities.
Reunification can no longer be something to talk about when the time is right.
The time is now. Others may not want to face up to it but the fact is reunification is no longer a political desire but a political necessity.
The question is not whether or not we can afford reunification, the question is can we afford to continue to subsidise partition at the expense of our economy, at the expense of our country and at the expense of our childrens’ future?
If we are to argue the case for reunification and build the Ireland we all want to see then we need determined capable people who can do that.
Luckily, I see a lot of determined capable people in this room today.