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Sinn Féin runs advert in The New York Times calling for 'Irish unity in our time'

Mary Lou McDonald sat down with The Journal in New York today where she said criticism of the ad was ‘nonsense’.

Image from iOS (5) The half page advert in today's New York Times calls for a Citizens' Assembly to on Irish unity to be established. Source: Christina Finn

Political Correspondent Christina Finn reporting from New York

SINN FÉIN HAS run an advertisement in The New York Times newspaper today calling on the Irish Government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish unity.

The half page ad addressed to the Taoiseach, which is paid for by the Friends of Sinn Féin Inc, calls for “Irish unity in our time”.

“We believe it is imperative for the Irish Government to plan, prepare and advocate for Irish unity as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement.

“We call on the Irish Government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly to plan for Irish unity. The relationship between Ireland and America is a bond of kinship and family forged over generations,” states the advert. 

It goes on to say that the Good Friday Agreement is the framework on how to resolve current political differences and is a roadmap for future peaceful and democratic change. 

“One constant in an ever-changing world has been the bipartisan support in the US for the Agreement in Congress by successive administrations and by all those who share a common bond with Ireland. 

“We believe that Irish unity is the firm will of the Irish nation and will serve the best interests of all who share the island, citizens abroad and the wider diaspora. We can be the generation to deliver Irish unity in our time,” the ad concludes. 

The ads follow on from a similar campaign last year which was also organised by Sinn Féin’s US fundraising arm.

Some hit out against the high-profile adverts running in the midst of Brexit tensions last year, but the media campaigns are indicative of growing efforts by Sinn Féin to highlight the call for a referendum on Irish unity abroad.

Advert running in US newspapers this week

The advert that is in The New York Times today will also run in the Washington Post later in the week, as well as the LA Times and some other US newspapers. 

Fine Gael’s Charlie Flanagan has hit out against the adverts, stating that they are “unhelpful and dangerous”. He told The Journal

“Sinn Fein playing to the US audience is like giving child a box of matches to play with.”

Speaking to The Journal in New York today, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald defended the adverts. 

“I think that both sets of adverts are dealing with the reality that things have changed and are changing and the reality that we need to prepare for that change. So I think the call on the Irish Government has to convene a Citizens’ Assembly and to begin the process of preparation and engagement is just all about common sense,” said McDonald.

McDonald is in New York for two days before she heads to Washington DC to take part in number of events organised for St Patrick’s Day this year. 

“We saw in a different context, when Brexit was on the horizon, and those that were proposing Brexit just kept telling us rather inanely ‘Brexit is Brexit’, I mean, what did that mean? And you see the consequences of that, of a lack of preparation, and a lack of thought and we don’t want that to happen.

“I think it is in all of our interests that we have good order that we have a space led by the Irish Government where all of viewscan actually engage on the issues whether it’s in terms of an all Ireland health service, or economic model or education across the island or cultural issues or symbolic issues,” McDonald said. 

“All of these things need to be thrashed out and the Government have kind of tipped their toe in the water with the shared Island unit. Dialogue is good. We support that for what it’s worth, but we know it’s not enough. That’s not sufficient. So that’s what today’s adverts are about,” she added.

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‘Nonsense’

When asked what did she make of the criticism against the ads, she said it is “nonsense”. 

“It is the job of politics and of political leaders to lead. And I’ve said for a long time, and I’ve said this privately to people and I’ve said it publicly, burying your head in the sand is not the answer.

“That’s not how you steward and how you shape political change. It’s very, very important now that there is a real appreciation that the Unionist majority in the North is gone – that is gone over the last number of elections, it’s not coming back.

“There’s a momentum for change across the island. I think some of that is generational. I think just things come of their time. And the Good Friday Agreement makes provision for referendums. They will happen and therefore, the wise thing, the really wise thing to do is to prepare for them,” she said. 

During the visit to New York, McDonald will meet with Irish American community organisations, while in Washington DC she is due to meet with Congressional leaders and members of the Biden Administration.

McDonald will also attend the Ireland Funds dinner which the Taoiseach as well as high-profile American politicians. 

On Thursday, McDonald will attend the Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill, as well as the traditional shamrock ceremony in the White House.

It has long been a tradition for the leader of Sinn Féin to attend St Patrick’s Day celebrations at the White House.

TheJournal.ie’s Political Correspondent Christina Finn will be bringing you all the latest updates from Taoiseach Micheál Martin’s visit to Washington DC this week including his meeting with US President Joe Biden on Thursday.

Stay up-to-date by following @christinafinn8@thejournal_ie or @TJ_Politics  and TheJournal.ie’s Facebook page.     

 

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