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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 6°C
# Sinn Féin
McDonald says concessions around tricolour and anthem 'will be discussed' in united Ireland
Mary Lou McDonald said concessions to Unionists will be up for discussion in reaction to a recent opinion poll.

THE LEADER OF Sinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald, has said “everything”, including potential concessions to Unionists over the Irish flag and National Anthem, will be up for discussion, in order to reach agreement, north and south, on a potential united Ireland.

McDonald spoke to reporters in Limerick today, before addressing farmers at the annual general meeting of the Irish Creamery and Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA).

McDonald was asked for her reaction to new research from the Irish Times which showed that many voters in the Republic were unwilling to make concessions to Unionists to accommodate them in a potential united Ireland.

Almost half of all voters said that changes to the anthem and flag would make them less likely to vote for a united Ireland in a referendum in the Republic, according to an Ipsos opinion poll published today.

McDonald initially responded that “the data also shows that the issue of health and economic well-being, far outplay any of the legitimate issues around flags or anthems, and I think we need to be careful here not always to reach for the old reliables of flag and anthem.”

However, when pressed further, in the context of the tricolour and National Anthem, the Sinn Féin leader replied that, while her preference was for the status quo to remain, “every single thing will be discussed”.

“Of course we need to talk about those things (flags and anthems), but people are very sensible and they know in their day to day lives that healthcare and health provision, economic well-being, economic opportunities – that’s really where it is at,” McDonald continued.

“Above all else, I think it is now perfectly clear that we need to start the planning (for a united Ireland), start the conversation, and engage people.”

“People have lots to say, people have lots of ideas on all of these issues but it has being my personal experience for a long time, that when people come to talk to (Sinn Fein) about reunification, north and south, the number one issue that is raised is health,” she said.

“Interestingly there is appetitive for an all-Ireland national health system, and there is a huge disenchantment with the HSE and the current healthcare provision in the south, but also we have issues around resourcing in the north.”

She said concentrating the conversation on the Irish flag and national anthem was “the wrong way to come at the future” because it highlights “that someone wins, someone loses, someone advances, someone concedes”.

“I don’t think that’s how the conversation is going to happen at all, because I think it is in everybody’s interests that we have a properly resourced, accessible health service…that’s the issue.”

When asked for her own opinion on concessions in the context of the National Anthem and tricolour, McDonald said: “Well of course, the tricolour is our flag.”

“For me, it captures the orange and the green, the two great traditions on the island. And Amhrán na bhFiann, sé an amhran is fearr i mo thuairimse (Amhrán na bhFiann, this is the best song in my opinion) — but let me reap the, this is a real conversation – this isn’t an abstraction ‘never never forth green field’ position.”

“We need to start talking about how do we organise the services that we all rely on, how do we build the best opportunities for all of us – it’s a moment of huge excitement, and I really don’t think we should start from the position of winners and losers.”

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