Establishing Citizens’ Assembly is of crucial importance in preparing the way for unity referendums
By Gerry Adams
In recent weeks we have seen the erection of billboards across the country calling on the Irish government to establish a Citizens’ Assembly on Irish Unity. Thousands of leaflets have also been produced.
This campaign is a natural consequence of the Good Friday Agreement which is 25 years old this year. The Agreement affords the people of the island of Ireland the democratic opportunity to decide through referendums North and South if they wish to end the union with Britain or establish a united Ireland. For the first time since partition there is
a peaceful and democratic route to ending the union with Britain.
Four decades ago, when republicans set our sights on a peace process there were those who said it was impossible. But it happened. There were those who said that an agreement was impossible. They were wrong. There are those today who say that unity is impossible. They also are wrong. Unity will happen by united Irelanders staying united, cohesive, strategic and active. By us reaching out to others. By those who want unity working intelligently and winning people, including northern Protestants and others, over to the potential of Irish unity.
The Citizens’ Assembly is a key step in this process of persuasion. It is an important mechanism for democratising the debate on the future. In the last decade Irish governments have held several successful Citizens’ Assemblies. These helped deliver marriage equality and the repeal of the 8th amendment. The reality is that the Irish government is against the unity referendums and consequently has rejected the Citizens’ Assembly proposal at this time.
The establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly is of crucial importance in preparing the way for the unity referendums. It will deliberate on the integration of public services; the all-island economy; culture, rights and identity, and the shape and form of new democratic institutions.
The public debate around ending partition and achieving Irish unity is now mainstream and one of the most important discussions in our society at this time. A Citizens’ Assembly is the
democratic exercise of the right of citizens to have their say on their future.
Professor Brendon O’Leary, in his recent book ‘Making Sense of a United Ireland’ writes; “The need to prepare for the possibility of reunification affects all on this island and it affects our diasporas. This book is a call for effective preparation, accurate information and informed judgements. How will reunification happen – if it does? And how should it happen, so it can happen as well as possible.” Professor O’Leary is right. The Irish government needs to plan for the future, not ignore it.
The establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly is of crucial importance in preparing the way for the unity referendums.