People need to stop getting “prickly and offended” at the very mention of Irish unity, Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson has said.
Ms. Anderson was speaking during discussion over a border poll a recent Brexit debate held in Derry.
Different political representatives from north and south of the border said that the governments would have to look seriously at the matter as Britain prepares to enact Article 50 which will herald the UK exit from the European Union.
Fianna Fail Dublin TD, Darragh O’Brien, told those gathered at Pilot’s Row that the Irish Government would have to prepare a paper on a United Ireland.
He added that a recent Red Sea poll in the south showed most people were in favour of reunification, but added that “calling for border polls immediately post-referendum can be problematic because we have to deal with the issues”.
The matter was raised from the floor during the debate by local community worker, Sean McMonagle.
Mr. McMonagle, speaking about the majority vote to remain within the EU, in contrast to England and Wales, said: “I think as an Irish Republican this is the best opportunity we have had since partition to have a real conversation about the reunification of Ireland.”
Mr O’Brien said however: “What we have got to do now is set up Civic Forum and All-Ireland Forum. Our Taoiseach cannot be negotiating separately from your representatives in the north.
“I believe the All-Ireland bodies and structures set up under Good Friday Agreement, particularly over last five years, have not been used to their potential at all. I do think this is an opportunity to have a proper, positive discussion about reunification. I’m a republican and always have been, a constitutional republican. A bit of a mess was made over the proposal of the All-Ireland Forum, but that should not be the end of it.”
Mr. O’Brien said that in terms of a United Ireland the Joint Oireachtas Committee “will be preparing a paper on that on how that will look.
“The Scots did that. That’s something we have to be ready for,” he said. “I just think timing is important. It’s something I want to see, my party want to see, and we have used as best as possible, our influence, but we have got to get to the next step.”
Ms. Anderson, however, said a Referendum now on a United Ireland would test the waters and give an idea of what they need to work towards.
“People need to stop being offended, prickly or sniping in rooms when Republicans talk about unity, or a border poll,” she said. “Relax about it. Don’t try and silence us.”
She said that sometimes when the issue was brought up “you would have thought a hand grenade.
“It struck me that when we Irish republicans, if we mention anything to do with Irish unity it can ‘Aw don’t scare the horses, it’s too soon after the vote, let’s wait’. I have heard that for 20 or 30 years.”
Tom Kelly, who led the Stronger In campaign in the north agreed that an All-Ireland Exit Forum has to be set up and should be cross-sectional. “I think the All-Ireland bodies have to activated fully,” he said.