Sinn Féin leader Mary-Lou McDonald has defended saying, “tiocfaidh ár lá” during her first speech as president at the party’s ardfheis last week.
Ms McDonald said it was not about harkening back to Sinn Féin’s violent past or connotations with the IRA.
At the end of her speech last week, she rallied supporters as she assumed the leadership of Sinn Féin, saying: “Up the republic, up the rebels agus ticofaidh ár lá,”she told RTÉ’s Late Late Show.
“I am notoriously difficult to keep to a script and it’s not unusual for me to depart from it. At the ardfheis, I was setting out things that I believe passionately in – social progress, social justice, shared prosperity and a new Ireland. For me; to utter the words,tiocfaidh ár lá, refers absolutely to that version of a new Ireland.”
“I know to some people that sounds like a harkening back to the past. For me it is not. I am a new leader of Sinn Féin. Tiocfaidh ár lá is about the future. It’s about building a new Ireland and that is what my speech was about and the final line,” she said.
“If language carries a negative connotation, you reclaim it. The last place I want any of us to go to, is the past,” she added.
“I could have said any number of things but you need to understand that I am a republican leader, speaking in the republican tradition and to a republican audience and doing that in a way that is modern,” she said.
“For us to move into the future, we have to allow unionists to be unionist and speak their language on their terms and likewise for republicans and nationalists and to move forward that way,” said the Sinn Féin leader.
Ms McDonald, who is the first woman leader of the party, hit out at “mansplainers” for trying to tell her how to do her job.
“I listened to a chorus of mainly men, and mainly older men, mansplaining my job to me on the public airwaves. I have a problem with people who have never run for public office, or who have never been in politics, telling me how to do my job or assuming I wouldn’t be capable,” she said.
Ms McDonald said she believes a solution to the political impasse in Stormont can still be reached.
Talks on the restoration of powersharing in Northern Ireland broke down on Wednesday after DUP leader Arlene Foster said there was currently no prospect of a return to devolved government.
“I don’t buy into the politics of the impossible,” said Ms McDonald. “I think any problem, however big, however complex, if you are sufficiently dedicated and if people are prepared to lead, those problems can be resolved,” she said.
She said a solution could only be delivered with political leadership.
“It’s not a good thing that the DUP walked away from the process,” she said.
“I would be lying if I said I was anything other than very disappointed that we didn’t manage to get a resolution; that it just wasn’t possible for the DUP to get the accommodation that we had arrived at, over the line.”