A need for measured discussion on a united Ireland


Sir, – I fully agree with Diarmaid Ferriter’s column (Opinion, February 2019 16th), that there is an urgent need for a measured, balanced and comprehensive discussion on a united Ireland.

Ten years ago Mark Durkan, then SDLP leader, set out in a major policy document “Unity Through Agreement” a coherent and competent approach to persuading for Irish unity without jeopardising the Belfast Agreement.

In a new integrated agreed Ireland the SDLP document stated: The Assembly would continue, as a regional parliament of a united Ireland with all its cross-community protections; the Executive would be kept, bringing together all political parties; just as the Irish Government has a say in the North now, the British government would have a say in the North in a united Ireland.

As Mark Durkan said at the time: “The SDLP’s vision of a united Ireland is based on equality. We believe that all the rights, protections and inclusion that nationalists sought within Northern Ireland while it is in the United Kingdom, must equally be guaranteed to unionists within a United Ireland.”

Diarmaid Ferriter argued: “Southern politicians need to be honest about how they envisage a future shared Ireland.” Rather, all parties on this island need to come together to debate, discuss and agree in detail what a new agreed Ireland looks like.

Equally, we have a shared duty to reassure unionists that our collective vision of unity does not threaten the wider unionist community.

On numerous occasions in recent years, SDLP leaders have called on all parties to return to the mode of the Forum for Peace and Reconciliation to build a consensus and develop understanding on Irish unity.

This is the appropriate place for an inclusive, balanced and comprehensive discussion on building a united agreed Ireland. – Yours, etc,


SDLP West Belfast ,