‘Violence must never be used again’ - SDLP

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA said any new constitution for a new Ireland must begin with the commitment that violence will never, ever again be used as a “political tactic” to enforce unity.

Mr Eastwood said Sinn Feil leader in the north Michelle O’Neill’s comments regarding a new constitution for a New Ireland, which would protect the British identity, are in line with previous SDLP proposals.

“It is our view that such protection for unionism rather than being seen as generous concessions should instead be seen as a given,” he said. “The SDLP has long proposed that the protections and institutions won for minorities in the Good Friday Agreement would need to remain to protect unionism in a New Ireland. That would mean that Stormont would remain, giving both northern unionism and nationalism power in both Belfast and in Dublin.

“If we are truly serious about building a New Ireland we must face up to certain realities. In persuading unionism towards a New Ireland, those of us who passionately believe in it must consider the messenger as much as the message.

“The truth is that many from a unionist background will oppose Irish unity not on the basis of logic or self-interest but because one of its messenger’s embodies unionism’s memory of violence. That might well be an uncomfortable truth for Sinn Féin to face but in their more honest moments they must know it to be real.

“Therefore, as I have previously proposed, any proposed drafting of a new Irish constitution must begin with a prior commitment that violence will never, ever again be used as a political tactic to enforce unity upon this island.

“It would enshrine that those of us who wish to bring about the reunification of Ireland know that it will only ever be worthwhile if unionism and the British identity find opportunity, comfort and belonging in it,” Mr Eastwood added.