Unity = 50 per cent plus one?

 

A chara, – I agree entirely with Fintan O’Toole when he argues that “Irish democracy has to be about the creation of a common polity in which minorities of different kinds can feel fully at home” (“United Ireland will not be based on ‘50 per cent plus one’”, Opinion & Analysis, August 15th).

That is the Sinn Féin position, as articulated repeatedly by my party leader Gerry Adams TD, the late Martin McGuinness and a range of other Sinn Féin spokespeople.

I am also in agreement with Fintan O’Toole when he points out that “the citizens of the 26 counties have as much of a say in the matter of a united Ireland as those of the six counties”. That is also the Sinn Féin position, again repeatedly articulated by Sinn Féin representatives.

However, I must take issue with your columnist’s construction of a “straw man” argument in order to misrepresent Sinn Féin. Myself and my party have been at pains, over many years to argue against “crude, tribal majoritarianism”, representing as we do those who suffered as a result of this type of governance and its attendant discrimination over many years in the North. Sinn Féin is currently seeking to defend and uphold the Belfast Agreement, against those who would seek to return us to the days of such crude majoritarianism. The objective of the new Article 3 of the Constitution, quoted by Fintan O’Toole, is one which Sinn Féin is to the forefront is pursuing, legitimately and democratically.

Sinn Féin has never contended, as Fintan O’Toole suggests, that a referendum on a united Ireland would “solve all our historic problems”. Neither are we asking people to “vote for a form of unity that merely creates an angry and alienated Protestant minority within a bitterly contested new state”, quite the opposite.

There is now an urgent need for an inclusive, constructive debate on our future, including what a united Ireland might look like. Unionist representatives need to be involved in that debate.

The challenge of Brexit presents new opportunities for building reconciliation and new relationships between all our people, from whatever background, who share this island.

However, rather than Sinn Féin being “delusional”, it is surely Fintan O’Toole’s suggestion that the construction of an agreed, united Ireland in which all our citizens can feel comfortable and secure should be left to “its sworn enemies” that is delusional.

In that scenario, as Gerry Adams pointed out, the potential for political, social, and economic progress, particularly in the face of the challenge which Brexit represents, will be limited to what unionism is prepared to accept. That attitude is what led to decades of sectarian discrimination in the North.

The Belfast Agreement provides for a referendum on Irish reunification and a majority in favour must result in a united Ireland. Anything less would undermine the Agreement and be a denial of democracy.

For decades republicans were urged to respect the will of a majority in the North when it came to the constitutional question. Is Fintan O’Toole now saying that a majority in favour of Irish unity should be ignored? If so, he needs to think again.

Constitutional change is now in the hands of our people. It is the time to come together to design a pathway to a new, agreed, inclusive and united Ireland. – Is mise,

MATT CARTHY MEP,

Carrickmacross,

Co Monaghan.

Sir, – Is Fintan O’Toole dismissing the Belfast Agreement principle of consent? If so, is this part of efforts by The Irish Times to mark the “Decade of Centenaries”? In 1912, Patrick Pearse was an advocate of Home Rule before influential opinion-formers of his time made it clear that the rule of law was less than fixed in such matters. – Yours, etc,

COLM DORE,

Belfast.

Sir, – I agree with your columnist Fintan O Toole (that it would be undemocratic to impose a united Ireland on the unionist community on the basis that a small majority of the people of Northern Ireland voted for it.

But that’s exactly what we are demanding of the nationalist community; a United Kingdom is currently being imposed on them on the basis that a small majority of the people of Northern Ireland continue to vote for unionist parties.

I imagine that the nationalist community will be very quick to point to “double standards” if there is any hesitation regarding the creation of a united Ireland when the majority in Northern Ireland vote nationalist. The UK’s imminent withdrawal from the customs union significantly advances that date, and a united Ireland will herald a prolonged and bloody conflict.

The only enduring solution is to repartition Northern Ireland along nationalist and unionist lines. Any other solution must entail depriving almost half the population of Northern Ireland of their political identity and is a recipe for instability and violence. We should begin the process of repartition now in partnership with the United Kingdom; continuing to sleepwalk up this cul-de-sac will only make a solution more difficult to implement. – Yours, etc,

JOHN McGRATH,

Ashford, Co Wicklow.