Photo: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne
By Ahmet Gurhan Kartal
The fate of a referendum on Irish unity is not tied to Brexit, but in the event of a no-deal Brexit with Britain crashing out of the European Union, the timing is right for the question to be put to the people, said the deputy leader of Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Michelle O’Neill said she would be “fearful for the small element in society that made an attempt to bring us back to the past, but we have to stand very strong against that”.
“There is no room for violence,” she added.
O’Neill said that is why they need to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the backstop clause in the EU withdrawal agreement.
Underlining that there can be no return to a hard border in the island of Ireland, O’Neill stressed that Sinn Fein’s reason for existence is Irish unity.
She said the peace process in Northern Ireland was “a hard one”.
“It was a long time in the making until we actually got to the Good Friday Agreement 21 years ago,” she said, referring to the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
“No one wants to go back to where we were before. We can’t allow anyone to drag us back to the past.
“This is the serious implication that when we talk about the Good Friday Agreement and the need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, people need to remember what it was about.
“It is the alternative to conflict. It is a democratic and legitimate way to achieve Irish unity,” she said, adding it is an accommodation between those with Irish identity and those with British identity.
Also speaking to Anadolu Agency, Michelle Gildernew, one of Sinn Fein’s seven absent MPs in Britain’s House of Commons, also said the people of Northern Ireland will hold a referendum to unite the region with the Republic of Ireland in case of a no-deal crash-out.
“The border poll is written into the Good Friday Agreement,” she said, adding it is an internationally binding document.
“We signed off on that in 1998, so the border poll has been around for decades, and it has been a valid desire that we have been able to work towards.
“However, in the event of a crash-out Brexit, the Sinn Fein believe that people need to be given their say on the constitution and on their constitutional possession,” she added.
Gildernew said she believed that Northern Irish people who want to remain in the EU would vote positively in a border poll.
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