SF to seek Border poll on united Ireland
Sinn Féin in the coming weeks will launch a campaign for a Border poll on a united Ireland, Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said in a new year’s statement.
Unionist politicians including DUP First Minister Peter Robinson have insisted there could be no justification for such a referendum because, they state, the recent census and other polls have indicated a sizeable majority want to maintain Northern Ireland’s link with Britain.
Following the recent street protests and disturbances over limiting from 365 to 15 the number of days the British union flag can fly over Belfast City Hall there is also concern that a push for a Border poll could further ratchet up tensions.
Mr Adams, however, said “recent misrepresentations by unionist politicians of a ‘chipping away at everything British’ in the North, is a dangerous falsehood”.
He added: “The North is no longer a unionist fiefdom and must reflect Irishness and Britishness with equality of treatment as envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement. Equality also means freedom to pursue political objectives peacefully and democratically. In the coming weeks, Sinn Féin will launch a campaign to secure a Border poll.”
Mr Robinson, in his new year message, while focusing on positive developments in Northern Ireland in 2012 and opportunities ahead also adverted to the decision to “remove” the union flag from Belfast City Hall. He said it was ill-considered and provocative.
“People are entitled – even justified in protesting – but nobody can justify threats, acts of violence or other unlawful behaviour. Right-thinking unionists will want to channel their opposition to this, and similar decisions, into political activity aimed at strengthening our British culture and identity,” he said.
He added: “I’m proud of my British heritage. I’m proud to be part of the United Kingdom. I’m glad that support for the union in Northern Ireland is at its highest level with recent polls showing less than 10 per cent supporting a united-Ireland now.
“It is a mark of success for unionism and Northern Ireland that a growing number of Catholics are now content with the constitutional status quo. It is our goal to make Northern Ireland a place where people of all backgrounds feel a part.”
Year of reconciliation
Mr Robinson, Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and SDLP leader Dr Alasdair McDonnell hoped that 2013 would be a year of greater reconciliation.
This year the Northern Ireland Executive’s cohesion, sharing and integration strategy on tackling sectarianism is to be published.
Mr McGuinness said: “I earnestly hope that we will continue to move towards the development of a new phase in our peace process in 2013, and that the seeds of reconciliation among and between all our people will grow. My decision to meet Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Belfast earlier this year was a sincere effort on my behalf to advance reconciliation between republicans and unionists and consolidate our peace process.”
Dr McDonnell said the focus must be on respect, reconciliation, equality and prosperity: “It’s time to move beyond managing the conflict here to transforming it.”