Recognition for route to Irish unity welcomed by McDonald
It is not about being ‘orange or green’. It’s about ‘whether you are a student or a farmer, or a worker’
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald said the people spoke when they voted to remain within the European Union. Photograph: Getty Images
Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary-Lou McDonald has welcomed EU leaders “recognising the provision for the route to Irish unity in the Good Friday Agreement”.
They agreed Northern Ireland will automatically become part of the EU if people on the island vote in a future Border poll for Irish unity.
Speaking after a Sinn Féin Women’s Forum in west Belfast Mary Lou McDonald told reporters in order to protect society, the economy and jobs it was essential that special designated status for the North within the EU is secured.
Ms McDonald described the attainment of this as “a win for everybody”.
“This is not about whether you are orange or green, this is about whether you are a student or a farmer, or a worker, or somebody who wants to see social progress and economic progress within your community,” she said.
“In making this demand and in championing this cause we say what we win we win for everyone.”
The Ulster Unionist Party had criticised the provision for a future united Ireland being part of Brexit talks, with MEP Jim Nicholson saying the Belfast Agreement could not be “cherry-picked” and that “neither Dublin or Brussels speaks for Northern Ireland”.
In response to these comments Ms McDonald said: “Certainly Tory Britain doesn’t speak for anybody in the North, on the contrary the Tories have no support here.
“This is about us collectively protecting our future,” she said. “The tired old defensive rhetoric, that day is over now.”
“I would say to Jim Nicholson that nobody presumes to speak for the people they people speak for themselves.
“The people spoke when they voted to remain within the European Union. “The people spoke again when they voted in the Assembly election for progressive politics and change and we believe in the Westminster elections you will see the people speak very, very loudly once again in support of those ideals.”
Previously Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams has said he would like to see a Border poll “yesterday”. Ms McDonald agreed with this sentiment and said while a timescale could not be provided for when a Border poll would realistically take place “political momentum on change is moving step by step in that direction”. “All of us want to see it yesterday if not the day before yesterday,” she said.
“Obviously the destination of our politics is a new Ireland, a fair Ireland, a united Ireland, an inclusive Ireland.”
She added: “I have absolutely no doubt that there are many many within the unionist community who look with the same fear and trepidation at Brexit as people who would call themselves nationalists or republicans.
“We can’t give you a date for the Border poll but we can tell the political momentum on change is moving step by step in that direction.
“We want that journey to be a journey of dialogue, of listening, of sharing ideas and learning from each other because in the new Ireland there will only be a victory for all of us, we are not looking for any defeats.”