McGuinness calls for UK link to end

Published Monday, 30 April 2012
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Martin McGuinness has called on people in Britain to press the Government to end its constitutional link with Northern Ireland.

McGuinness calls for UK link to end
The Sinn Féin politician says a united Ireland makes sense. (© Getty)

The Sinn Féin Deputy First Minister also questioned the need for the continued existence of a Secretary of State.

The transfer of remaining powers would be a massive vote of confidence in the political institutions as well as a massive saving to the Exchequer.

On Monday night, in an address at the London School of Economics, he declared: "As Ian Paisley said to me during our first meeting 'Martin, we can rule ourselves, we do not need these direct rule ministers coming over here telling us what to do'."

The region has had a British Secretary of State based in Hillsborough Castle, Co Down, since 1972.

It followed the suspension of the Stormont Parliament because of civil unrest at the time.

But 14 years after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, Mr McGuinness said there was also a need for a change in British Government policy in relation to the Union.

The Mid-Ulster MP said: "It has been often said that the Easter Rising marked the end of the British Empire as it was known.

"The days of colonialism and domination had to end."

He said that peoples' right to national self-determination and freedom "would have to take preference to the economic needs of the colonial masters."

"And I say that, not to be provocative or to engage in rhetoric, but to simply mark out a significant landmark on the historical road which has led us to where we are now."

He continued:"In constitutional terms, whereas the Rising marked the beginning of the end of the Empire as people knew it, it is my belief that the Good Friday Agreement marked the end of the Union, as we know it."

That belief, he said, had been strengthened and confirmed not just by what was happening in Ireland, but also with events elsewhere, with the demand for Scottish independence and greater Welsh autonomy.

The constitutional fabric of the British State had been changed forever, he claimed.

Mr McGuinness, a former IRA leader, added: "As an Irish Republican leader I am clearly unapologetic about my belief in Irish national self-determination. I am also absolutely wedded to the political and peace process."

A united Ireland makes sense, he said.

"In many ways the political progress in the North over recent years has levelled the political playing field for nationalists and republicans to argue for the first time ever from a position of equality that Irish unity is a political and economic imperative."

Mr McGuinness said the debate "should not be confined to Ireland."

"There is a role for people in Britain to become persuaders for Irish unity.

"Tonight I call on all those in Britain to become voices for an altered union, a union without Ireland, for a united Ireland, at peace with itself and its neighbours, including Britain."

He also called for a dialogue on how we heal the hurt, and move into a new era.

The Democratic Unionist MP Jeffrey Donaldson said the proposals were nonsensical.

He branded them as an attempt to push an anti-Unionist, pro-united Ireland message and only served to cause division.

He claimed: "It is hardly surprising that at a time when Catholic support for the Union is at an all-time high Sinn Fein are attempting to divert attention from the fact that their United Ireland strategy is in tatters.

"Our position within the Union has never been more secure and support for the Union has never been stronger."

© UTV News
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27 Comments
R in Belfast wrote (903 days ago):
Let's face facts, regardless of your religion, it probably makes sense for a united Island of Ireland. This doesn't have to be a Catholic State, but a coming together of Catholics, Protestants and indeed those of no religion. To think that we all live on one Island but some would rather we live separately and not share baffles me. Anyone ever heard of the argument of economies of scale? To continue to be funded by Britain as if we couldn't somewhow survive all together is downright patronising and always has been.
Realist in England wrote (903 days ago):
Seamas, you are fairly correct. The state was designed to have the greatest manageable area in terms of pseudo-democracy based on a sectarian headcount. It was also constrained by traditional county borders as the Boundary Commission’s suggestions were universally ignored. Ulster Scots-specking Unionists in Eastern Donegal were sold to Rome whilst places like Newry and South Armagh were forced into the six county state. Western democracies, especially first past the post Western democracies, are far from ideal. Between elections, most governments have the mandate to act as mini-dictatorships. They have to temper that come election time in order to win votes. The six county state didn’t even have that safeguard as the Unionists knew they could rely on their superiority in numbers and that they could reliably take their own electorate for granted by playing the so-called ‘Orange card’ come election time. I do not see your point as Unionists still have superiority of numbers in the six county state. If you accept that the six county state has a right to exist, or even has some sort of historical uniqueness, then you have a track record for being suckered in by pro-Union propaganda and I could understand you getting excited about the format of the GFA vote. The reality is that it was not an all-Ireland vote as the British SoS had stated that only the vote in the 6 counties counted. If the Free State jumped up and down to legally commit themselves to dropping articles 2 and 3 and copper-fasten partition, sobeit, but if 50%+1 in the six counties voted against it, the GFA would have been consigned to the history books. Illusion aside, yet again less than 20% of the Irish people were given the ultimate say. Now reconsider your ‘but nationalists count now too’ point. Unionists are still in the majority. If there was a plebiscite in the six counties tomorrow for reunification and everyone voted, you would expect the Unionists to win by a anything from few percent to nearly 10 based on whether children could vote or not. What I am getting at is that if Unionists vote as a single block, as they would on partition, they retain their veto. Nothing has changed there. Now, what would have happened if the Nationalist population doubled or half the Unionists left Ireland before the GFA? The fact is that Britain could never have ignored the will of a clear majority in the six counties. Just like the SNP getting into power in spite of Labour safeguards to prevent single party rule in Scotland, so the British would have had to admit defeat and rue keeping places like Derry City and Newry/South Armagh. The GFA actually makes it more difficult to achieve a United Ireland as far as I see it. You say that violence is a symptom and not a cause. Of what? I agree that violence does not normally occur in vacuo and that republican violence has been a reaction to injustices, real or perceived in the past. In such it is a symptom of, say, partition as opposed to a cause of partition - but it would be illogical to suggest that a recently planted bomb could cause partition 90 years ago. David Hume pointed out that we can never prove causal links, but I'd say we can fairly easily write off that possibility. In credit to them, I doubt any Unionists really believe that sort of thing either. As for your point on the opinions of the people in Britain – yes, they should, and do, have a say. You could say "ah, Realist, the British people have always supported Irish unity but Irish unity has not happened, therefore their government is ignoring them and they have no say" but that would be unfair. The say they have is in whom they elect to govern them. If a British person supported Irish unity but voted for the Tories, then clearly they wouldn’t get a united Ireland. There was a time when Labour, under Kevin McNamara or whatever his name was, wanted to pull out. Polls at the time suggested that the British people generally supported the republican cause. Just not enough as to vote Labour at that point. Personally, I don’t blame them as I can’t expect them to care so much about Ireland as to put us before their own immediate interests. As for MMG – it’s all window dressing as usual. The Scottish people are about to exercise their say in the make-up of the Union. Likewise the Welsh could vote in Plaid Cymru to demand independence. It is only the English who are constitutionally completely disenfranchised within the ‘UK’ to be fair. So what is it that MMG wants here? Maybe he wants to give 70 million people a legal right to prevent reunification irrespective of the wishes of anyone in any part of Ireland. Don’t worry though, PSF spin would still convince 90% of its electorate that the higher Irish birth rate would still ensure freedom one day (several millennia from now). The other 10% will be vilified and ridiculed as a micro-group of delusional traitors.
Michael H in Belfast wrote (903 days ago):
Seamas - 'Peace is freedom from intimidation and discrimination' - Which we do not have as people are continually attacked on both sides. 'perfectly reasonably is asking British people in Scotland, England and Wales to consider their position too. Do they not have an opinion on the shape or structure of the union?' It is not perfectly reasonable as most do not know the intricacies of Northern Ireland and it's problems nor do they care as long as it is not affecting them. Tell me then why they should have a say? Also everyone still seems to neglect the fact that there are nearly 1 million people who do not want to be United with Ireland. For anyone to ignore this fact shows how blinded they are as there are those who would take up the cause to fight to be free from a United Ireland just as Republicans have fought to be free from the UK. When then would Ireland be at peace?? After another 40 years of murder and mayhem?? I am damned if I know what the solution is but we must not ignore facts. At present we seem to be struggling along and why would anyone want to rock the boat. Seems to me that Martin McGuinness is just reiterating every now ang again that he is still pretending to work towards a United Ireland. As for making economic sense etc what planet is he on. In the real world the South is Bankrupt and couldn't afford us anyway. Then there are the British firms who may pull out if Ireland was united. Economic collapse and possibly civil war does not sound like 'Ireland at peace'.
seamas in belfast wrote (903 days ago):
Realist. The state was founded on a sectarian headcount designed to yield the greatest territorial area with the most protestant unionists and the least catholic nationalists. Unionists ran the state for the next 50 years on that basis. They were the majority and it didn’t matter what the minority wanted. What Blair was referring to was the concept of the majority of people, not the majority people. This was evidenced by the GFA referendum vote. A majority of people voted in favour. It didn’t matter how many protestant unionists voted in favour. The majority of people voted in favour. There is a fault line which runs through Irish politics and which divides unionists and nationalists. Unionists believe we have political problems because we have violence. Nationalists believe we have violence because we have political problems. I’m a nationalist. I believe violence is a symptom not a cause. Peace isn’t the absence of violence. Peace is justice, equality, full enfranchisement and representation. Peace is freedom from intimidation and discrimination. As for Martin McGuinness what he is doing, perfectly reasonably is asking British people in Scotland, England and Wales to consider their position too. Do they not have an opinion on the shape or structure of the union?
Realist in England wrote (904 days ago):
Seamas, what do you mean man? How does including nationalists in the six counties population in any way challenge the Unionist veto? Gerrymandering aside, Nationalists were there all along. What Tony Blair did was tell everyone that they could have what they wanted and then delivered to no-one. Like every other British prime minister, he served the interests of London over those of the Irish - be they Unionist or Nationalist. The so-called peace process is not a process at all as a process implies a gradual change towards an objective (peace) and the current set-up cannot deliver that. Think about it - if everyone in Ireland decided to agree on something but I strongly disagreed and had access to a load of weaponry, I could as an individual cause mayhem and prevent Ireland being at peace. Lasting peace requires everyone to be on board. In removing violence perpetrated by the major indigenous players in the conflict (Provos, UDA/UVF/etc.), Ireland took a welcome step towards being at peace, but it was a step change, not a process and the peace we currently see is relative. There are still people committing acts of violence all the time and that will never go away whilst the communities remain divided. Having PSF on one side and the DUP on the other will not ever lead to true peace. We need to come together and redefine our shared Irishness. Switzerland is in some ways a divided country, but the local political and linguistic differences do not prevent the Swiss having a stable and wealthy contry. Belgium, on the other hand is less 'at peace' as politics, language and wealth are conflated into a socio-political conflict. The situation in Ireland is similar. Most people speak English every day, most people are white, etc. There is very little to tell us apart. Old divisions that were generated to support a divide and conquer strategy by former British governments have resulted in a belief that there is a religious conflict in Ireland. There is not. Probably most "Catholics" and "Protestants" are actually atheists these days - but that doesn't change their tribalistic association with Unionism or Nationalism. The religion-wealth association have also become a fallacy in this day and age. The people living on the Shankill, I would contend, are no better off than those living on the Falls. The socioeconomic argument for the basis of the conflict here is at best an anachronism, harking back to a time before non-discrimination legislation. Pearse once said that "Ireland unfree shall never be at peace". He was right, but the freedom we need is a freedom from the baggage of the past. We need to get together and work out a shared future that involves neither a union with Britain nor Pearse's romantic ideal of a Catholic Irish Republic. We are not all Christian, let alone Catholic. I notice that, once again, OldSod has some sensible suggestions here. From what MMG said here, Paisley was partially right - we can indeed rule ourselves. From their entrenched and highly polarised positions, however, I'm just not sure that the DUP and PSF are the people to do that for us.
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