Speaking last night to the Foreign Relations Committee of the New York Bar Association, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald TD gave the following speech.
The impact of Brexit on rights
When I was invited to take part in a Brexit Questions and Answers session, I believed that we would have all of the answers to what Brexit will mean.
This week, the British parliament voted against the deal, they voted against having no deal, they voted to extend the process, and next week they could vote again on the deal they rejected this week.
I never thought that it would be possible to make Brexit worse, but this British government have proved me wrong.
The actions of the British Government have compounded the disaster that is Brexit.
Our people and businesses don’t know if they will be in or out of the EU in two weeks.
What we do know is that Brexit was never in Ireland’s interest.
It was about the British Tory party.
It is about a particular English nostalgia for an imperial past that is long gone.
It is the product of an elite seeking to game the present and enrich their future through deregulation and erosion of rights.
It was never in the interest of ordinary people. It was never in the interest of workers. It was never in the interest in Ireland North or South. It was never in the interest of our peace agreements.
Ireland is once again collateral damage in the machinations of a government at Westminster
The government that partitioned our country.
Every decade since partition, up until the Good Friday Agreement, was marked by violent conflict and state repression.
The border became increasingly militarised, with Hilltop forts, helicopter flyovers and army checkpoints. The border was the physical manifestation of the failure of British policy in Ireland.
Since the signing of the Agreement and with the subsequent agreements, there has been peace and there has been progress. It’s been slow, it’s been challenging and it’s been frustrating but we are in a better place because of the agreements.
The border infrastructure is gone. The delays are over. The Good Friday Agreement rendered the border invisible.
There would have been no Good Friday Agreement without the active involvement of US administrations or without the active support of Irish American and other activists here.
However, our Island is still partitioned, and the Border remains contested. The agreements provide a framework for managing the relationships within the North, between the North and South and between the island of Ireland and Britain.
It is based on recognising and respecting individual rights, including the right to British Citizenship, Irish Citizenship or both.
It built interlinked and interdependent institutions based on powersharing, equality and North South Co-operation.
It also provides for a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity. A people’s referendum on Unity.
The Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by referendums North and South. It is an internationally recognised and binding agreement on both governments. They are custodians of the peoples vote, co-equal and joint guarantors of the agreements
The Good Friday Agreement, the rights of citizens, and all-Ireland cooperation is unpinned by Irish and British membership of the EU.
Brexit changes everything. That is why we have consistently said that Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement.
That is why we need a special status for the north in the Brexit negotiations.
The EU get that, Theresa May conceded that when she agreed to the backstop.
The Withdrawal Agreement is clear that the GFA must be protected in all its parts and that’s why a Backstop, a bare minimum guarantee was required.
It is about protecting the agreements, progress and rights of citizens.
We have a porous border stretching over 300 miles, with hundreds of crossings. Bisecting communities, farmland and even workplaces.
There are thousands crossing the border every day for work. Children traveling across it for school. Patients for treatment. All as easy as crossing the road.
That is because both parts of the island are in the EU.
And there are multiple examples of cross-border projects focusing on infrastructure, regional development, business and job creation, health, women, children and young people, to mention but a few.
There are many more examples of public and private bodies across the island working together, from municipal authorities, to cross-border implementation bodies, to health agencies, to higher education institutions, to community and voluntary sector organisations, to small businesses.
Make no mistake; Brexit leaves all of this hanging in the balance.
The Good Friday Agreement states that a person born in the North can have Irish, British or joint citizenship and be afforded equal treatment and equal rights.
After the Good Friday Agreement was signed, the Dublin government codified in law its recognition of the dual nature of citizenship for people born in the North, thus accepting both nationalities.
The British government did not do this.
Under British law, Irish citizens born in the North are classified as British citizens by default and are treated under law as British. After Brexit and without an agreement, Irish Citizens could be treated as visitors in their own land.
On the matter of citizens’ rights, what will change after Brexit Day?
That depends on if the Withdrawal agreement is implemented or if we have a crash out Brexit.
In a crash out Brexit, we are into the unknown and unforeseen.
The implications will be immediate and far reaching.
While there is a commitment to maintain the Common Travel Area, freedom of travel north and south and between Ireland and Britain, this is not on a sound legislative basis.
What we know that even with the Withdrawal Agreement, freedom of movement, one of the indivisible freedoms of the EU, will be curtailed.
Currently, EU citizens have all the rights necessary to visit, live, work, and study in other EU member states without being subject to immigration rules.
Irish citizens with an Irish passport, born in the North will by extension hold EU citizenship which means they’ll still have the freedom to move to the EU.
However, Northerners with British passports won’t have that level of freedom to travel to the EU.
And non-Irish EU citizens travelling to the North from elsewhere in the EU, from the South for example, will be subject to tougher immigration controls.
How will that movement be policed exactly? We’re told there won’t be a hard border in Ireland—basically, there won’t be physical barriers—but the stricter rules will have to be enforced somewhere.
Will it be by bus drivers taking people into the North? Will it be by employers? Will we have a case of certain people being singled out and treated like second-class citizens?
Then there’s the democratic right to vote and stand candidates in EU elections. That right will be lost to all citizens in the North. The EU provide for the Irish Government to reallocate seats to the North following Brexit. They refused and retained the additional seats for the south, leaving Irish Citizens in the North without representation in the European Parliament.
They’re also losing access to the Court of Justice of the EU, the court that administers justice in cases concerning EU law, the court that’s been a safety net for citizens who believe they didn’t get fair treatment in the domestic judicial system.
Health is another area of concern. Current EU standards and regulations in the use of medical devices, the regulation and approval of medicines, and access to medication for medical treatment are all at risk for those living in the North.
And in education, there’s a real chance that citizens from the North will have to pay higher tuition fees if they wish to attend university in the EU.
They’re likely to be denied access to the Erasmus programme too—a fabulous student exchange programme that facilitates third level students to work and study anywhere in the EU. Such changes could put university attendance out of financial reach for those in the North. The changes would further restrict citizens born in the North from accessing all but two of the universities on the island of Ireland.
The EU has a substantial set of anti-discrimination and equality laws provided on the basis of race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age. In the North, where there isn’t a stand-alone Equality Act that enshrines these EU laws in domestic law, citizens depend almost entirely on EU law (and the Court of Justice) to have those rights honoured.
Many workers’ rights exist because of EU law, for example, sick leave and maternity leave entitlements, fair treatment at work, and the principle of equal-treatment between standard workers and (comparable) part-time, fixed-term, and temporary agency workers.
There’s no guarantee that the British government will secure these rights into the future. They’ve made a promise to that effect but refused to legislate on the issue.
The most fundamental abuse of rights in the Brexit process has been the refusal by the British Government to accept the democratic vote of the people in the North to remain in the EU.
Britain can Brexit. That is their choice. But the people in the North voted to remain.
Brexit demonstrates the undemocratic nature of partition. Never again should the games being played in Westminster be allowed to undermine our interests. Our economy and the rights of citizens.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a unity referendum. The people should be allowed to have their say.
There are those who say that this is not the time. This is precisely the time to look beyond Brexit and to plan for a future Ireland together. An Ireland that respects the rights of citizens, that is prosperous and fair. An Ireland that can be a home to all who share the island.
Early in the negotiations, the EU reflected on the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement to deliver fundamental constitutional change. They recognised that the agreement provided for a United Ireland. In that circumstance then a United Ireland would automatically be an EU member.
A path back to the EU post Brexit is clear. A united Ireland is route back to the EU. The issue in Ireland is not only about being British or Irish but also European.
That has changed the dynamic for many who hold modern European values.
Change is coming, it began before Brexit and will continue after Brexit. It is up to us to all to manage that change.
I hope that just as the US stood with us and made possible the Good Friday Agreement.
They will continue to stand with us in the process of building a new and united Ireland.
The days of Britain dictating to the people of Ireland are over and Theresa May needs to accept that reality if she is to avoid a no deal Brexit crash, Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald has said.
Commenting after a Sinn Féin delegation met with the British Prime Minister at Stormont today, Mary-Lou McDonald said:
“We told Theresa May that we will not tolerate anything that undermines the Good Friday Agreement and that is precisely what a hard border in Ireland would do.
“The backstop is an insurance policy to prevent a hard border. It is supported by the majority of citizens, businesses and other key sectors of our society and people.
“Theresa May’s attempt to row back on it is an act of gross bad faith and an act of hostility against Irish interests.
“The days of Britain dictating to the people of Ireland are over and Theresa May needs to accept that reality if she is to avoid a no deal Brexit crash.
“She continues to appease DUP opposition to the Backstop but an agreement will never be found in pandering to the DUP.
“The government here collapsed because of the DUP and they have now brought their dysfunctionality and chaos into the heart of the Brexit process.
“We are only six weeks away from a No Deal crash out. Of course, the ultimate guarantee against that scenario is the provision within the Good Friday Agreement for a referendum on Irish Unity.”
“The four Remain parties, Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and Green Party continue to believe that there is no such thing as a good Brexit and our preference is for no Brexit at all. We recognise that the majority of people, businesses and civic society do not want Brexit either.
“We have a shared responsibility to protect jobs, economic stability, the environment and people’s livelihoods.
“At the very least, this means avoiding a hard border, protecting the Good Friday Agreement and hard won peace of the past twenty years, and staying within the Single Market and a Customs Union.
“Therefore as a basis for this, we maintain that there is a pressing need for the backstop as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement to be banked.
“By contrast, we believe that a no deal situation would be catastrophic for our economy and society.”
Gerry Adams, Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald and FOSF President Mark Guilfoyle address supporters at Friends of Sinn Fein's annual November Dinner on November 8th, 2018 at the Sheraton Hotel in New York, New York.
The reunification of Ireland would lead to a massive economic windfall for the whole island while Brexit will have disastrous consequences, a major new international research study has concluded.
The report, ‘The Cost of Non Unification – Brexit and the Reunification of Ireland’ was conducted by a team of political science and economics researchers led by Dr Kurt Hübner, Director of the Institute for European Studies at the University of British Columbia. It updates their previous work on the economics of Irish reunification to take into account the impact of Brexit.
Commenting at the launch in Belfast today, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said such compelling evidence could not be ignored.
“This report, and particular economic modelling, exposes the hard economic evidence that reunification would provide a massive economic boost to the entire island,” she said.
“Dr. Hübner and his team bring a wealth of experience to this debate and their conclusions are crystal clear – reunification would lead to a massive €23.5 billion increase in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) across the island by 2025. The vast majority of these economic benefits would be in the North, where GDP would increase by 17.9 billion, that equates to over €9000 for every citizen.
“That is in stark contrast to the economic devastation identified in the report of a no-deal Brexit which would lead to a slump in GDP of over €10 billion. Even in a post Brexit scenario where the North remains in the European Single Market, we would still face a GDP decline of almost €4.5 billion.
“So of all the potential futures facing the people of Ireland, North and South in this current climate of political uncertainty, it is abundantly clear that reunification is the one that not only makes sense, it is imperative if we are to maximise the potential prosperity of all our citizens.
“In the words of the report, unification ‘is the only option with positive net effects’.
“This strength of this evidence cannot be ignored and while we thank Dr Hübner and his team for this valuable contribution, it is a debate that the Irish government must now take a much more proactive role in leading.
“A new generation is already questioning partition, particularly in the context of Brexit, and it is time now for the Irish Government to encourage and lead an informed, reasoned and respectful public dialogue on the issue of Irish unity.
“It is also time that the Government prepared a realistic plan for Irish reunification, including the establishment of an Oireachtas committee to bring forward a Green Paper for Irish reunification.”
Orfhlaigh Begley MP for Tyrone speaks at the Philadelphia Irish Society's dinner on the 25th of October 2018. Pictured with Pat and Kathy Ghegan, Kathleen and Denise Doyle and Chris Chambers of the Irish Society. Orfhlaigh also met with Judge Vincent Furlong and visited the Philadelphia famine memorial.
United States Congressman Richard Neal (D-Massachusetts) visited the Lifford/Strabane border Wednesday, October 17th. He met with local elected representatives, residents and members of the Border Communities Against Brexit. Brexit is a danger to Ireland, its people, and a threat to the peace process and Good Friday Agreement.
The James Connolly Irish American Labor Coalition held a lunch in New York on Friday September 14th to promote the McGuinness Principles of Equality, Respect,Truth and Self Determination for Ireland.
The Principles are an Irish American initiative to raise support for the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement including a referendum on Irish reunification.
Over 150 Labor leaders, organisers and activists from the Building Trades, Electricians, Plumbers and Pipefitters, Operating Engineers, Teamsters, Firefighters, Transport workers, Laborers, Hotel workers and more attended and were an upbeat and energetic audience.
Introducing the event, John Murphy, International Representative of the New York State Plumbers and Pipefitters welcomed the James Connolly Coalition initiative for providing a meaningful connection between Irish America and Ireland which supports issues of mutual interest.
John Samuelsen, International President of the TWU and JCIALC President urged those present to seize the opportunities presented by Brexit to support Ireland’s reunification.
He reminded the audience of the words in the Irish Proclamation read outside the General Post Office in 1916 declaring the republic; “supported by her exiled children in America”. He made clear to everyone in attendance, “we are the exiled children” and called for support of the McGuinness Principles named for the late Martin McGuinness.
John introduced Gerry Adams who asked the audience to add their voices to the growing calls for a referendum on unity and praised the the JCIALC ‘s promotion of the McGuinness Principles which are about implementing the Good Friday Agreement’s core issues. Adams said that Irish unity is being discussed widely and that now is the optimum time to raise the demand for a referendum.” Our job “ he said “is to achieve these objectives in the shortest possible time with the maximum level of popular support. And we will achieve this sooner with the help and support of irish America.”
Also in attendance were Mario Cilento,President NY State AFL-CIO, Vinny Alvarez, President NY City Central Labor Council, Bernadette Kelly International Representative of the Teamsters, Bill Lynn Business Manager Operating Engineers and a group from Chicago headed by James Coyne, Business manager of the Chicago plumbers Union.
Allison Morris. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, September 10, 2018
There has been huge online reaction to the network premiere of Massacre at Ballymurphy, the hard-hitting documentary by award-winning film-maker Callum Macrea which screened on Channel 4 at the weekend.
The film, which was previously premiered at Féile an Phobail, was shown on Saturday, with a reconstruction and forensic examination of the events which started on August 9, 1971.
The documentary contains personal stories from relatives of the 10 people shot dead in west Belfast by members of the parachute regiment over three days of horrific violence.
Paddy McCarthy, considered the 11th victim, died of a heart attack after British soldiers fired shots over his head.
Among the dead were mother-of-eight Joan Connolly and Fr Hugh Mullan, who was shot dead going to the rescue of another victim.
The film details a shocking re-enactment of the circumstances of Daniel Teggart’s death.
He was shot 14 times, and most of the bullets entered his back as he lay injured on the ground.
Following the programme Unionist Irish language activist Linda Ervine posted on Twitter: “Before watching #MassacreAtBallymurphy I had no knowledge of what took place all those years ago. A terrible wrong has been done”.
Another documentary maker, Seán Murray, said he hoped the screening of the film by Channel 4 “awakens the British public to the actions of their government during the conflict. Well done to my friend Callum Macrae and all involved”.
Journalist and broadcaster Eamonn Holmes tweeted in support of Mr Macrea, saying: “Regardless of your political persuasion or views on the Northern Irish Troubles, I would urge you to both hear what this man has to say and watch his film if you can. The year is 1971. The subject is the killing of civilians by the Parachute Regiment in Ballymurphy West Belfast.”
Ian Katz, director of programmes at Channel 4, said: “Ashamed to say I knew nothing about the Ballymurphy massacre – the 1971 killing of 11 men and women by the British army in Belfast – till I saw Callum Macrae’s meticulous and shocking reconstruction of it.”
Scottish political activist Tommy Sheridan said it was “absolutely shocking”.
“I am ashamed that despite my limited knowledge of British army atrocities in Northern Ireland I didn’t know about these state murders in Ballymurphy,” he said.
“No wonder the British Establishment have hidden such massacres from the general public for 47 years.”
Former soldier Glenn Bradley said he had “met the Ballymurphy families some years ago and have supported their call for truth since”.
“I watched Massacre At Ballymurphy and my lasting thought is how docile and compliant were the media then”.
Belfast boxer Michael Conlan said: “Watching Ballymurphy Massacre and listening to what families have gone through and still going through, my eyes are filling up, very sad stories to poor innocent families”.
Former Antrim football captain Anto Finnegan said: “This is not rewriting history, this is shining a light into that dark place those in power want to keep hidden.”
Rather than simply bemoaning the lack of an Executive in the North, the Taoiseach should be asserting his government’s role as co-guarantor of previous agreements in order to help re-establish it, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill has said.
The Sinn Féin Vice President was responding to comments made by Leo Varadkar at the Fine Gael ‘think-in’ today in Galway.
She said: “It is disappointing to hear the Taoiseach bemoaning the fact that the North is still without an Assembly and Executive as if his government has no responsibilities for ensuring the right conditions are in place for a power-sharing administration to be re-established.
“The institutions of the Good Friday Agreement must be underpinned by the principles of equality, mutual respect and parity of esteem that are guaranteed by that agreement. That is not the case if the DUP, supported by the British Government, persist with denying rights and equality to citizens in the North.
“Leo Varadkar would not tolerate discrimination against the LGBT community, women, victims and Irish speakers in Dublin. He should not tolerate it in Belfast either.
“The Dublin Government should assert its full role as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement in order to help restore the political institutions and address directly the core problem of the denial of rights.
“Leo Varadkar has pledged not to abandon northern citizens in the context of Brexit. He also has responsibilities to them in terms of rights and his government, rather than engaging in party political attacks, should be showing leadership in securing and defending rights which are routinely delivered everywhere else on this island.”
Speaking after a phone call with British Secretary of State Karen Bradley today, Sinn Féin Deputy Leader Michelle O’Neill said today that the price of the Tories’ toxic pact with the DUP is no Assembly and no Executive.
Michelle O’Neill said:
“I spoke to the British Secretary of State Karen Bradley today and it is abundantly clear that her government’s plan is to do nothing to help restore the political institutions in the north.
“The Tory government has no regard for the people of the north and the price of its toxic pact with the DUP is no Assembly and no Executive.
“They continue to put their own selfish party political interests above the need to have political institutions which can deliver front-line public services and equality for all our citizens.
“The British government continues to facilitate the DUP’s denial of rights enjoyed by citizens everywhere else on these islands
“The denial of marriage rights, language rights, women’s rights and the right to a coroner’s inquest would not be tolerated in Britain and is unacceptable in the north.”
Michelle O’Neill also said that publication by the British government of guidance on a No Deal Brexit confirms the Tories’ absolute contempt for the people of the north. She said:
“The guidance published today confirms the absolute contempt and blatant disregard the Tories have for the people of the north.
“It confirms the disastrous consequences of Brexit, including more bureaucracy and more expense for businesses.
“It also confirms the British government’s utter lack of preparation for the No Deal scenario they are hurtling towards.
“There is an onus on the Taoiseach and the Tanáiste to stand up for the rights of Irish citizens and in the national interest on Brexit and there needs to be an urgent special meeting in September between Britain and the EU to deal exclusively with the arrangements for the north.” ENDS/CRÍOCH
A leading expert argues that a united Ireland is now unstoppable and a question of when rather than if is the only thing left to be decided.
The debate about Irish reunification is now alive and kicking, with endless chatter over the last year about the prospects of a historic border poll taking place in the next few years. There are various strands that are beginning to weave together, creating, what I believe, will prove to be unstoppable momentum. So here are ten reasons why a united Ireland is now on the way:
Northern Ireland was designed to lock-in Protestant-Unionist ascendancy. This is why it only includes six counties of the ancient province of Ulster. (The other three had Catholics majorities). Even so, the last census in 2011 showed that Protestant-Unionists now account for less than half (48%) the population of Northern Ireland, with Catholics on 45%. Of course, not all Catholics want a united Ireland, just as not all Protestants hate the idea, but the figures are still a pretty good indicator of where support lies.
The ground has shifted dramatically in recent years, with Catholics now outnumbering Protestants at every level of the education system. Let’s put it this way, the voters who will ensure there’s a united Ireland have already been born.
Britain’s decision to leave the European Union back in June 2016 has electrified the debate about Irish unity. On average, 56% of people in Northern Ireland voted to stay in the European Union (with Catholic-Nationalists voting by as much as 88%). For many soft nationalists and even for a growing number of unionists, the loss of their EU citizenship is building support for Irish unity. More than a quarter (28%) of a cross-section of people in Northern Ireland said the UK's decision to leave the EU had made them more likely to vote for a united Ireland, according to a BBC poll. Meanwhile, another poll for British radio station, LBC, found that leaving the EU is more important to average British voters than keeping Northern Ireland in the UK.
In the 2017 elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Sinn Fein came within 1,100 votes from beating the Democratic Unionists into second place. Just 30,000 votes or so now separate parties committed to Irish unity from those who favor remaining part of Britain. At the next elections, scheduled for 2022, SF may well top the poll, with parties committed to Irish unity, or just those in favor of holding a referendum about it, in a majority. If this happens, the British Government, which decides when a referendum on Northern Ireland’s future status can be called under the terms of Good Friday Agreement, will be hard-pushed to avoid heeding the call.
The hard bit is already done. The actual process for bringing about a united Ireland was confirmed 20 years ago with the signing of the GFA. It allows for a referendum on Irish unity if “at any time” it appears likely to the British Secretary of State “that a majority of those voting would express a wish that Northern Ireland should cease to be part of the United Kingdom and form part of a united Ireland.” The blueprint is already in place. All it now needs now are the right conditions to be met.
Back in 2014, the Scots voted narrowly to stay in the UK by just 55-45%.The British political establishment threw everything into persuading them to remain, with dire predictions about life outside the UK. These ‘Project Fear’ warnings had little effect and the campaign for independence got stronger and stronger throughout the campaign. Remember, this was before Brexit, where 63% of Scots chose to stay in the EU.
So the scene is set for another vote on independence in the next few years, with nationalists complaining about being forced out of the EU against their wishes by the English. Scotland’s a much bigger deal for the UK and if goes, taking its oil fields and nuclear submarine bases with it, losing Northern Ireland, in comparison, will feel like an afterthought.
When people in Britain think of Northern Ireland there’s a general air of bewilderment. They remember the IRA bombings and wonder why Orangemen want to walk down streets where they are not wanted. That’s if they think of the place at all. They have little affinity with Northern Ireland, with many wondering why Britain is still there. There’s also brooding English resentment at the Democratic Unionists, who prop up Theresa May’s government in the House of Commons in return for £1 billion in extra funding. Senior members of Theresa May’s own party were appalled at the arrangement, given the DUP’s blatant homophobia, while the poorer English regions are angry at the special treatment given to unionists at, as they see it, their expense.
Northern Ireland’s economy is set to be devastated by Brexit. Why would outside investors (many from the US) entertain the idea of basing themselves in Northern Ireland, which, after Brexit, no longer has automatic access to the EU’s single market? In contrast, opening up down the road in the Republic guarantees lower taxes and immediate access to the single market. For many Northern Irish business leaders and farmers, the hard reality of Brexit makes Irish unity the obvious solution.
Northern Ireland amounts to just 1.5% of the UK’s economy and is reliant on a £10 billion grant from the British Government each year. The place makes no economic sense and has seen its traditional industries wane over the past 50 years. A report from 2016 by a team of European academics modeled the effects of Irish unity and found that a single Irish state would generate tens of billions of Euro in extra economic activity straightaway, with the north benefiting most from emulating the successes of southern Ireland.
If Northern Ireland votes to become part of a single Irish state, the people who already live in the Republic will have to vote on it too. So what’s in it for the south? First off, this is clearly unfinished business for most Irish people. The reunification of the country is a deeply and sincerely held belief. (Polls routinely show two-thirds in favor). Furthermore, it will increase the Irish population to nearly seven million, making the Republic a bigger player in the European Union and creating a larger domestic economy.
Northern Ireland simply wasn’t built to last. Its creation was a back foot political compromise from a beleaguered British government that couldn’t defeat the IRA’s guerrilla campaign during the War of Independence, but didn’t want to be humiliated and felt it owed something to unionists, (especially as so many served in the First World War). So it split the difference. History usually tells us anything created as a messy compromise is not destined to last. As Northern Ireland crawls to its centenary in 1921, many are asking, will it survive much longer?
Mary Lou McDonald speaking at a rally in West Belfast to show support for Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey and their families following recent bomb attacks on their homes slams those responsible as cowards.
Sinn Fein President Mary Lou McDonald has said that those behind the attacks on the homes of senior Sinn Fein figures Gerry Adams and Bobby Storey have no right to call themselves republicans.
TWU President John Samuelsen meeting Harry Connolly, West Belfast Tourism and Paul Maskey MP for West Belfast on a visit to the site of the James Connolly museum and interpretive centre on the Falls Road in Belfast.
It's probably an urban myth that Baltimore comes from the Irish, Baile an Tí Mhóir, or perhaps I only think that because it caused some surprise when I dropped that nugget of information before my gracious hosts from the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in that great city last Sunday.
Whatever the truth, it's a fact that Baltimore boasts a proud Irish heritage and an active cadre of community champions moulding that history to meet contemporary challenges. And while the Irish Railroad Workers Museum is indeed the pride and joy of the Baltimore Irish it also represents a project of national importance for Irish America and Ireland. Indeed, in telling the story of the Feeley family who arrived in Baltimore fleeing hunger and oppression in the bleak year of 1849, it is also telling an immigrant tale which resonates in America 2018. The restored alley-street homes housing this treasure represent the only urban original house museum in the US.
The commitment and passion of the Irish Railroad Workers Museum committee is legend. They have brought back to life the story of James and Sarah Feeley — who still have descendants in the region — and been true in their telling to the oft-cruel realities of their era. Slave pens were located just a few blocks from the Feeley home while free blacks lived just doors away.
Purchased for a modest $20,000 in 1997, the two homes in Lemmon Street which make up the museum have enjoyed renovations costing over ten times that amount — and yet even more ambitious plans for a $500,000 transformation over the next five years are on the cards.
Michael Mellett, an equity trader by profession and proud Hibernian, exhibited a little bit of the Feeley derring-do himself by setting up home beside the Museum — despite the fact that it's in a troubled part of Baltimore — when he returned from Co Down after a four-year sojourn. "My family, and almost everyone who'd seen The Wire, said, 'don't move into West Baltimore," he says. "But then some people said the same thing when I moved to Warrenpoint. In truth, this is an area in which you have to be careful but the violence is largely related to drugs and targeted amongst gangs. When I came back to the US in 2007, I missed Ireland but discovering the Museum gave me a real purpose and mission and when I moved into the neighbourhood, Judge Ward who had founded the museum project, asked me to be Committee President."
The harsh reality of gun crime came home to Michael and his wife Kathy Kelly, a Museum docent, when 19-year-old John Brown, who grew up just down the block from the Museum was shot dead close to their home in April. "It was really tragic to see a kid we knew growing up, who we would have thrown a ball to and seen pop in and out of the museum, lose his live in such a pointless way," says Michael. A police poster taped to a lamppost outside the couple's home stands as eulogy for the dead teenager — and a searing commentary on the cheapness of life in inner-city America.
Yet there is reason for hope. New University of Maryland buildings have sprung up in the 'hood and the Irish Railway Workers Museum is bringing visitors to a street usually well-off the tourist track - even though it's no more than a mile from the glittering Baltimore harbour and within viewing distance of the impressive B & O Railroad Museum.
"The urban history revival in this area is inspirational," adds Michael. "The history here is so rich that the residents should stick out their chest and be proud."
As, indeed, should Michael and his colleagues who are serving in the best traditions of the Irish: preserving and promoting their own heritage while leading change in the heart of a community often enduring the same type of rejection which faced the Feeleys.
Michael Mellett, Kathy Kelly, Kathleen Reinholdt and Dan Layden outside The Shrine and Irish Railroad Workers Museum.
I had taken the scenic route to Baltimore — via Philadelphia where I was addressing the inaugural Irish Small Business-Big Impact 50 awards at the Union League on 18 May alongside Philly Mayor Jim Kenney (who had as it happens quite a lot to say on the subject of immigration). Irish American Business Chamber and Network Chairman Emeritus Bill McLaughlin had pioneered this Irish Echo-Philadelphia partnership which almost came unstuck on the Benjamin Franklin Bridge linking New Jersey and Pennsylvania. For, on approaching the bridge, I hit a pothole which blew a front tyre on my rental car.
A wiser driver would have stopped immediately but I took my chances by attempting a Flintstone-style bumpy ride on three wheels over the busiest bridge into the City of Brotherly Love. If you were one of the thousand cars behind me on that 5 MPH trek across the Benny-Frank, my sincere apologies!
Date for your diaries for all those who love New York and Belfast: The ninth annual New York-New Belfast Conference is scheduled for the Big Apple on 7-8 June. New York City Council's recently-elected Irish American Speaker Corey Johnson will join a high-powered roster of speakers at an event which builds bridges of mutual benefit between these two great cities.
Sinn Fein Deputy Leader Michelle ONeill and Sinn Fein representative Rita O'Hare read historical documents relating to Constance Markievicz and other Irish women revolutionaries at the American Irish Historical Society on Wednesday May 15th.
Torrential rain and storms did not deter an audience of about 50 coming to hear Michelle talk about women in Irish politics, focusing on her own experience.
The event was organized to mark the 150th anniversary of Markievicz’ birth by event director Sophie Colgan and Society chair Brian McCabe.
Fiachra and Emmet McGuinness with Terry OSullivan ,Governor of California Jerry Brown and Rob Hunter ,President California Building Trades
Sinn Fein TDS Caoimhghin O’Caolain and Martin Kenny with Senator George Mitchell at the Senator George Mitchell Peace Bridge on Sunday April 8th. A ceremony to mark the 20th Anniversary of the signing of the Agreement was organised by Church groups from Cavan and Fermanagh at the bridge.
The bridge links Cavan and Fermanagh and was opened in 1999. Senator Mitchell last visited the bridge in 1998 when he laid one of the beams. It was named after him to acknowledge his work in the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement.
Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald TD addressed a meeting of Friends of Sinn Féin in New York today. At the event she paid tribute to the former President of Friends of Sinn Féin, General Jim Cullen, who passed away in December last year.
Deputy McDonald outlined a vision and pathway to achieve a new and united Ireland. She invited those who support Irish Unity to continue to work, to lobby and to campaign for unity and made clear Brexit cannot be allowed to impose a hard border across Ireland.
During her address, Mary Lou McDonald TD said,
“Ireland is changing. The challenge for us, for this generation of Republicans, is how we shape that change, how we build a new and united Ireland.
"An Ireland of prosperity and opportunity. An Ireland of equal rights in which everyone has a place. An Ireland that provides jobs, homes and healthcare for its citizens.
"An Ireland where everyone has a place in society and a chance to succeed. An Ireland where it is about what you do, and not about who you know.
"An Ireland where the politics of the past, the nod and wink politics of the past, remains in the past. Where there is transparency and openness in government, where decision making is clear and free from any suspicion of undue pressure. An Ireland that can hold its head high as an equal on the world stage.
"That is our task. That is our job as republicans and supporters of unity.
"The support of Irish America is crucial to this task. As it has always been the case. The Fenian movement crossed the Atlantic.
"The Rising was only made possible with the support of the Ireland's exiled children. Their contribution writ large in the proclamation. They embraced the cause of civil rights and were central to the peace process.
"There wouldn't have been a Good Friday Agreement without American support and without Irish American support in particular.
"But our work is not done. We have many challenges to face, not least from Brexit. Let me be clear there should not be any border in Ireland and there cannot be any hardening of the border following Britain's withdrawal from the European Union.
"I ask you to continue your support as we work towards a new and united Ireland.”
Mary Lou McDonald TD will make her first visit to the US as President of Sinn Féin next week to attend St Patrick’s day events.
She will be accompanied by Sinn Féin Vice President Michelle O’Neill, and former party President Gerry Adams at events in New York and Washington.
Speaking ahead of the visit, Mary Lou McDonald TD said;
“This is a very challenging time for Ireland with the DUP collapse of the talks process in the North and the potential of Brexit to undermine the Good Friday Agreement, our economy and the rights of citizens.
"Over the years, US administrations and Irish America have played a crucial role in developing the peace process and bringing about the Good Friday Agreement.
"The progress that we have experienced to date needs to be maintained and I believe that the US continues to play a crucial and positive role in that process.
"I look forward to my first visit to the USA as President of Sinn Féin and meeting with, lawmakers, members of the administration and leaders in Irish America on these issues and the growing campaign for Irish Unity.”
The delegation will brief the Congressional Friends of Ireland on Capitol Hill, speak at a meeting hosted by Labour leader Terry O’Sullivan and attend a celebration of the 20thAnniversary of the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, as well as the St Patrick’s day celebrations.
In New York they will meet with supporters and friends at a gathering in the Sheraton in Manhattan hosted by Friends of Sinn Féin, attend Mayor de Blasio’s St Patrick’s Day breakfast before joining the James Connolly Irish American Labor Coalition before the Parade.
Friends of Sinn Fein USA regret the passing of FOSF President James P (Jim) Cullen.
Jim became President of Friends of Sinn Fein in 2012, ably carrying on the work of support for Sinn Fein and the cause of Irish Unity.
A former General in the United States Army he became a human rights lawyer, respected for the integrity he brought to all aspects of his work.
He saw for himself the subjugation of the nationalist people of the north by British forces during a visit to Ireland in 1969 and was determined that the truth about what was happening was heard in America.
He brought his considerable skills to that task through his pro bono work in many of the prominent cases being prosecuted against Irish Republicans here.
Jim Cullen loved Ireland and his origins in Offaly. He will be buried there according to his wishes.
Our deepest sympathy to his partner Catherine and to his family.
"Such an emotionally charged response is politically inept. It means negotiations are bound to fail because there’s no rational response coming from the DUP. Remember Foster’s incredibly ill-judged outburst a couple of years ago when as Acting First Minister she presented herself as gatekeeper to block ‘rogues and renegades’, that is Sinn Féin and SDLP ministers, from getting anything through the executive? Breathtaking. There you had the DUP’s position laid bare: ‘Them uns are getting nothing.' And so it proved.”
Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Seventy is a good number to start with. A LucidTalk poll conducted about ten days ago showed that nearly 70 per cent of Sinn Féin voters supported the party’s position of not entering an executive until there’s agreement on Acht na Gaeilge [Irish Language Act].
Here’s another seventy. In this year’s assembly elections 70 per cent of Nationalist voters voted Sinn Féin. In June’s British general election 71 per cent of Nationalist voters voted Sinn Féin.
Now you can draw a number of conclusions from those figures. First, Gerry Adams is correct. Sinn Féin won’t return to a Stormont executive without Acht na Gaeilge for the simple reason that they can’t. Their voters would be disgusted. Once you get up around the 70 per cent mark in a poll you know there’s no turning back. LucidTalk has a good polling record but even if they hadn’t that size of percentage is conclusive, overwhelming.
Second, let’s look at those other 70 per cent and 71 per cent figures from the elections. To read and listen to a lot of coverage North and South you would think Sinn Féin is a strange disembodied entity separate from society and normal discourse. When 71 per cent of Nationalist voters in The North vote for the party the fact is that the opposite is the case.
Sinn Féin is an integral part of Nationalist society. Get over it. So when people in the Unionist press and media castigate Sinn Féin for their opinions and policies in reality it’s the vast majority of the Nationalist community they’re castigating.
This fact obviously hasn’t penetrated the tiny particle of political brain Arlene Foster demonstrates in interviews. In every interview of a substantial length she gives, she suffers an acute attack of foot in mouth disease and loses the run of herself.
She is apparently unable to accept that Sinn Féin are articulating the views of the vast majority of Northern Nationalists. Instead, she regards the party as a bogeyman, to borrow the words of Wolfe Tone, ‘the never failing source of all our political evils’. Her views are almost as outlandish as Micheál Martin’s who’s just as horrified by the electoral threat Sinn Féin presents him.
That’s evident from her recent car crash interview about Sinn Féin’s motive being to “humiliate Unionists and those who believe in the British way of life.” Apart from the fact that she couldn’t define “the British way of life" ——how’s it different from the Scottish or Welsh way? —that sort of accusation exposes at least two flaws. The more glaring is that she has no rational argument to present to oppose Acht na Gaeilge so she frantically clutches at straws; the second is that she doesn’t take the Sinn Féin demand as genuine and respond politically rather than emotionally or sentimentally. For Foster everything Sinn Féin proposes is part of a fiendishly contrived plot at once devious, impossible to understand and impossible therefore to concede.
Such an emotionally charged response is politically inept. It means negotiations are bound to fail because there’s no rational response coming from the DUP. Remember Foster’s incredibly ill-judged outburst a couple of years ago when as Acting First Minister she presented herself as gatekeeper to block ‘rogues and renegades’, that is Sinn Féin and SDLP ministers, from getting anything through the executive? Breathtaking. There you had the DUP’s position laid bare: “Them uns are getting nothing.” And so it proved.
The consequences of that dismissive and fearful emotional response to Nationalists are now obvious. Foster has been so successful at convincing her own supporters of the malign, ulterior intent of Sinn Féin that 86 per cent of DUP voters say she must not concede Acht na Gaeilge, not because it may or may not have any political merit but because it’s a plot, conspiracy, scheme to humiliate Unionists. How can she go back on that any more than Sinn Féin can withdraw their demand?
In short Foster has blurted out so much emotionally charged language that she has led Unionists into a cul de sac. There’s no way out because she can only offer Sinn Féin less than they’re prepared or able to accept. You’d think she might take the long view that it’s 2022 before another Assembly election is due but no, the evidence is she doesn’t think politically