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Change is Coming by Declan Kearney - Sinn Féin National Chairperson

Declan Kearney - Sinn Féin National Chairperson

We should be excited about the future prospect of two new sovereign states emerging between these islands, an independent Scotland and a united Ireland”

The annual British - Irish Association (BIA) conference took place last month in Oxford, England.

Indicative of the pressures on relations between Britain and Ireland, there was a large number of senior Irish and British cabinet ministers and civil servants present.

Ministers from the administrations in Holyrood, Cardiff and Belfast, including myself, also participated.

It was notable but hardly surprising, that no reference was made to the influence these issues have had in moving the political debate on Irish unity centre stage.

That was up until the Saturday afternoon session addressed by myself, Scottish Minister Angus Robertson, the Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, Paschal Donohoe, Michael Gove, and, the north’s Joint First Minister, Paul Given.

Angus Robertson’s opening remarks immediately addressed the renewed mandate and political momentum for a Scottish independence referendum.

I told the BIA that the Irish unity is now firmly on the horizon, (and that dealing with Scottish independence is also unavoidable).

Everything has changed. Brexit caused an earthquake at the heart of the British state. It’s aftereffects, the pandemic, and now the Protocol impasse, have been driving unstoppable change.

As a result bilateral relations between Britain and Ireland are fundamentally altered.

Tory Brexit Britain is increasingly behaving like an outlier with regard to international convention and multilateral norms.

The realignment of the politics in Ireland is happening in plain sight.

This unfolding reality needs de-dramatised, by bringing reason, flexibility and generosity to our discussions about how future change is managed.

Such a process must involve the British and Irish governments, all the political parties on the island, and crucially, widespread civic participation. Establishing an all-Ireland Citizens Assembly will be an important way to move this discussion forward.

We should be excited about the future prospect of two new sovereign states emerging between these islands, an independent Scotland and a united Ireland, alongside a Welsh state with maximum democratic autonomy arrangements; and the potential for new forms of positive cooperation and coexistence.

The Irish peace process was in part a product of positive geo-political influences, especially from the USA and the EU.

The international community continues to have a pivotal role to play in Ireland, by supporting the transition towards Irish unity, and a new constitutional and political framework of national government, in which citizens’ rights, pluralism, prosperity, and progress will flourish.

Change is coming.

Those attending the BIA in Oxford, representing governments across these islands, and other significant civic institutions should begin preparing constructively for Irish unity, and all of the new associated opportunities.

A full version of Declan's comments can be viewed here

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