Unity referendum subject to Good Friday Agreement – Sinn Fein

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With all of the mainstream political parties unanimous on three key issues — the need to defeat dissident republicanism, safeguard the Six-County political institutions and oppose cuts to the British subvention — only the call for an all-island referendum has caused a stir in the Assembly election campaign.
At the launch of its manifesto, Sinn Fein said it would be actively pursuing closer ties between the 26-County and Six-County states during the next four years.
It said a referendum on a united Ireland would in time deliver the result republicans have long campaigned for.
Speaking on BBC radio, Sinn Fein’s north Antrim assembly member John O’Dowd said “the people of Ireland have a right to choose their own destiny. That is my view.”
He added: “Surely the people who live on the island of Ireland have a right to decide the destiny of what political future and make-up the island of Ireland has.”
Unionists said this appeared to conflict with the the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which requires the consent of the [unionist] majority in the Six Counties.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, a ‘border poll’ to establish whether the majority of people in the north want reunification can also only take place if permitted by the British government.

Mr O’Dowd later clarified his comments to accept what he said were the constraints of the Good Friday Agreement on Irish self-determination. “Ideally we would like to see an all-Ireland referendum, he said. “Every citizen should be equal and so that is Sinn Fein’s preferred

position. But we will work within the confines of the Good Friday Agreement.”

The SDLP has also said it is to push for a referendum on Irish unity within the next four years as part of its assembly election pledges. In the SDLP’s plan the assembly would stay as a regional parliament of a united Ireland but the British government would retain a say in the

north.

However, O’Dowd’s has been the only out-of-the-ordinary statement so far in what has been a lethargic election campaign by Six-County standards. The election takes place on Thursday, May 5th, alongside local council elections, as well as a little-understood referendum on the British electoral system.


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