Republican Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald acknowledged on Tuesday that the party must “win minds and hearts” to achieve the reunification of the island of Ireland, something her party would like to see this decade.
In the election campaign, which three weeks ago led to Sinn Fein’s victory in Northern Ireland’s regional legislature, the party put reunification with the neighboring Republic of Ireland on the back burner, prioritizing issues such as the cost-of-living crisis.
“We are preparing for a constitutional change, the reunification of Ireland. We have to do this in a peaceful, democratic and orderly way,” McDonald told a press conference in London.
For reunification to take place – which, by virtue of the Good Friday peace agreement of 1998, would require organizing a referendum – “there needs to be a preparation”, “a very broad debate throughout the island, which includes all points of view ”, he highlighted.
“The governments of London and Dublin need to consider that this is a trend, more and more people on the island feel that change is imminent,” he said.
Since the May 5 elections, in which Sinn Fein – the former political arm of the disappeared armed group IRA – became for the first time the main party in the Northern Irish regional parliament, local institutions, in which unionists and republicans must share power, are paralyzed.
The unionist DUP party refuses to participate, demanding the elimination of post-Brexit controls on goods arriving in the region from the rest of the UK.
In London, Boris Johnson’s government has threatened to legislate to unilaterally strike down the Northern Ireland protocol, risking a retaliatory trade war with the European Union.
The sides accuse each other of undermining the peace deal, which ended three decades of conflict in which 3,500 people died.
The United States – guarantor of the agreement and which last week sent a special delegation to Europe – and the Europeans “have invested a lot in diplomatic and political terms in the Irish peace process and no one will allow Boris Johnson, in such an arrogant way, to spoil the that they planned so patiently,” McDonald said.
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