Preparations for a united Ireland must begin now, McDonald tells New York audience

Preparations for a united Ireland must begin now, McDonald tells New York audience

LEADER OF Sinn Féin Mary Lou McDonald has told an American audience that Brexit is the "product of narrow English nationalism" and that political parties needs to begin preparations for a united Ireland now.

Speaking at the New York City Bar Association Council on International Affairs on Thursday as part of a series of meetings with officials in the US, she outlined Ireland's position going forward with Brexit, the British government's stance on justice for past violence and the importance of a close relationship with the United States.

"Ireland has changed and is changing," Deputy McDonald said. "Some of this is by a generational change, some of it by Brexit, but most of it by the realisation that the old order must give way to new horizons and new opportunities.

"Growing numbers of people now want a new Ireland and I believe the preparations for constitutional change for a new Ireland need to start now."

There can be "no stalling or delay" in this regard, she added.

McDonald continued to discuss Brexit, saying that it is a "product of English nationalism and a hankering back for the old days of empire."

"The Tory government in London dragged the people of Northern Ireland out of the European Union against the expressed democratic vote of the people, and now Britain wishes to use Ireland as a bargaining chip - ramping up interference and disruption in the north as a tactic in its confrontation with the European Union."

She called the British government's attempt to end the prosecution of military veterans of the Troubles was a denial of the truth of past conflict.

"They propose to end judicial investigations, to close down coroner's courts and to refuse victims' families access to civil actions.

"The imposition of an unconditional amnesty is not to promote openness and truth as some in the British administration have claimed.

"It is in fact designed to close down all scrutiny and to absolve their military for their actions. And let's remember, reconciliation can only be built and will only be built on acknowledgement, acceptance and respect."

She also spoke of Boris Johnson, saying that his "careless" approach to past agreements is now on show to the world.

"British Prime Ministers come and they go, but the Good Friday Agreement will outlast and outlive Boris Johnson - believe me on that," she said to applause.

"A century on from the forced partition of our island, the conversation of unity is alive in every city, town and village in Ireland," she continued.

"There will be referendums and the people of Ireland will have their say, so now is not a time for complacency. Its a time for energy, its a time for action, and above all else its a time to prepare for change.

"The British government must respect the will of the people and honour their commitments."

McDonald called on the Irish government, and particularly the Taoiseach to move from being "bystanders to persuaders" of unity.

"Sinn Féin has called for a citizens' assembly to be urgently established.

"It would be the very best forum for intensifying outreach and dialogue with our unionist communities on unity."

She thanked those in America who support a united Ireland, saying that the pandemic has shown how interlinked and inter-dependent the nations of the world are.

"The voice of the Unite States is so very important, because when Washington speaks, Westminster listens.

"President Biden demonstrated this when he issued a formal diplomatic rebuke to Britain for failing to honour their agreements.

"I invite everyone who loves democracy and peace and freedom to stay with us on our journey to a new and united Ireland because there is much work to be done, but we are getting closer everyday," she finished.