United Ireland in reach but huge effort vital - Adams


SINN FÉIN president Gerry Adams has told Irish-Americans that a united Ireland is within reach but he said that it will require a massive effort, including “huge outreach” to unionists.

Mr Adams was addressing a Sinn Féin conference on Irish unity in New York, which also heard from representatives of most Irish-American political and cultural organisations.

“Our struggle has taken many forms, sometimes armed, sometimes electoral, sometimes peaceful. We’ve fought on all fronts. We have suffered. Others have suffered also,” he said.

“With your support, we have made progress. There is an end to armed conflict . . . and I believe the political and economic dynamics in Ireland today make a united Ireland a realisable and realistic objective in a reasonable period of time.”

The Sinn Féin leader told the conference, which drew a capacity audience to a vast ballroom at the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan, that this generation could make a united Ireland a reality. “It will require thoughtful strategies, huge outreach to our unionist brothers and sisters and a patient process of nation-building to unite orange and green,” he said.

Brendan O’Leary, professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania, spelt out some of the steps that would be necessary to unite the two parts of Ireland.

He stressed that there was no “violent or revolutionary road to a united Ireland” and pointed out that Article 3 of Bunreacht na hÉireann states that an end to partition must be approved by separate referendums in both parts of the island.

Prof O’Leary said that the nationalist share of the vote in the North, which appears to have stabilised just above 40 per cent, would have to expand to include more newcomers from other EU states and a significant proportion of unionists.

He suggested that, if power-sharing is good for nationalists in the North today, it might be appropriate for Unionists too in a future, federal Ireland.

“I’m suggesting it might make sense to preserve Northern Ireland as a unit and leave the South to decide whether it wishes to disaggregate into two or three units or just to have a two-unit federation. This, to my mind, is consistent with the principle of pluralism rather than assimilation,” Prof O’Leary said.

Before the start of the conference, Mr Adams told The Irish Times that Sinn Féin’s poor performance in recent elections could not be seen as evidence of a lack of enthusiasm in the South for a united Ireland.

“Irish unity is bigger than Sinn Féin. Sinn Féin doesn’t have a monopoly and doesn’t want a monopoly on that primary national issue,” he said.

“We do think it’s a responsibility for the Irish Government. Clearly, constitutionally, the Irish Government is required to pursue that. The Good Friday agreement sets it up as having a parity of esteem with any other constitutional destination.

“So let that conversation in Ireland not just be about how we get it but what type of united Ireland we want. And we certainly don’t want, from the Sinn Féin position, a 32-county version of the 26 counties.”