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Where's Fianna Fáil's promised 12-point plan on a United Ireland?

In 2017, Fianna Fáil said it planned to publish a white paper on unification.

Image: Shutterstock/Anton Balazh

OVER TWO YEARS ago, Fianna Fáil announced that the party was working on a plan for a United Ireland. 

The party said it planned to publish a 12-point plan within a matter of months about how the links between Northern Ireland and the Republic should be strengthened to help prepare for the possibility of a unification.

At the time, Micheál Martin said he believed he would see a United Ireland in his lifetime. 

The 12-point plan proposal was announced in March 2017, almost a year after the Brexit referendum result in the UK.

Fast forward almost two-and-a-half years, and there is still no sign of that White Paper plan. So, what’s the hold up?

Last year, a Fianna Fáil spokesperson told TheJournal.ie that work on the White Paper on a United Ireland “is currently ongoing”.

The statement added that the paper “will be published when completed. Brexit and its implication for the island of Ireland are, of course, an important factor in our deliberations on a United Ireland”.

Work ongoing 

When asked about the whereabouts of the plan this week, Martin said “a lot of work has been done” on the paper. 

“We have articulated a fair degree in relation to aspects but because of developments and so on, we fell back. As you know we have entered into partnership with the SDLP and we are working with the SDLP on a number of fronts as well,” he said.

One of the only detailed reports on the issue was produced in 2017, by Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly, entitled ‘Brexit and the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland and Its People in Peace and Prosperity’. 

It details what needs to be done both before and after a united Ireland becomes a reality.

When Martin first announced that his party was planning for the possibility of a United Ireland, the party leader said there was nothing “sudden” about the plan, stating that Irish unity had been a part of the Fianna Fáil manifesto since the party’s inception.

At the time, Martin was eager to distance himself from being compared to Sinn Féin, saying it was “very different” to their plan. 

He said that the border polls Sinn Féin have been pushing for were “somewhat divisive and ridiculous”, whereas Fianna Fáil’s actions were being done in a “constructive way”. 

This week, Martin was also keen to differentiate his ideals for a United Ireland from Sinn Féin’s plans. 

Border poll 

“I don’t agree with what was a Sinn Féin position originally, they are pulling back from it. Sinn Féin were saying: ‘The minute we have Brexit, let’s throw in a border poll, let’s inflame the situation.’ And I just fundamentally disagree with that,” he said. 

Tomorrow, Martin takes part in a debate on ‘how to achieve a new and agreed Ireland and the form might it take’ at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Donegal. 

Martin shares a panel with Jeffrey Donaldson of the Democratic Unionist Party and also Michelle O’Neill, Vice-President of Sinn Fein.

What will the Fianna Fáil leader be telling the MacGill festival about Irish unity?

While he said he would not be sharing his speech in advance of the debate, Martin said it is his view that the parties in the north, particularly Sinn Féin and the DUP, have not utilised the Good Friday Agreement to the full.

I will be making the point that it is a scandal that the Assembly is not up and running and the Executive is not up and running and in the context of Brexit, which is the greatest threat to Northern Ireland in terms of society and economy there for a long, long time, that there is no government in place as per the Good Friday Agreement and there is no parliament in place.
I think that is a shocking indictment of both Sinn Féin and the DUP. Sinn Féin pulled it down in the first place, deliberately in my view, contrived it at the time over the heating scandal which has now gone into the background.
The DUP should have facilitated its restoration. Brexit demands and creates the imperative for the restoration of the executive and assembly without preconditions, in my view.

When asked should thought be given to what a new Ireland would look like over the next ten years, Martin said: 

“I have no difficulty with that except this: politicians on the island should get on with it. The Irish people voted in a referendum on the island of Ireland for the Good Friday Agreement. I don’t like the casual way the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions have been cast aside. I have a big issue with that. It was hard fought for, hard negotiated, sacrifices were made on all fronts, concessions were made on all fronts.”

He added that Sinn Féin and the DUP “have got away with a bit, in terms of public commentary on it. It is an appalling indictment on them, on the politicians concerned. I for one cannot understand why they haven’t been restored”.

“That’s the classic, isn’t it? Don’t go down the hard work of being a parliamentarian, of being a member of government, can we talk about the next 10 years again, and the next 15 years? People know this is difficult stuff and you must show form in terms of how you work these particular agreements,” he said, adding: 

I do get impatient with some of this talk because I really wish people get on with the job they were elected to do.

TheJournal.ie will be covering some of the political debates taking place at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties in Donegal this week. Stay up to date by following @TJ_Politics and our Political Correspondent Christina Finn @christinafinn8

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