Sinn Féin vice-president Michelle O’Neill has urged those who exploded a car bomb outside the Derry courthouse in January to end their counterproductive activities and become persuaders for a united Ireland.
Mrs. O’Neill said those who continued to use the name of the ‘IRA’ to carry out acts of political violence were ignoring the will of the people.
“There’s a peaceful and democratic way towards a united Ireland,” she said.
“Never has there been a better time when everyone who shares the aspirations for a new and agreed Ireland to work towards the principle of consent, to convince, not just nationalists and republicans, but convince people who don’t want to be convinced of a new Ireland.
“My message to them would be to embrace the Good Friday Agreement, the democratic and legitimate way towards a united Ireland. We have never been closer.
“This is a time to try to build consensus. It’s a time for us to go out and convince. There is no room in society for the type of activity they are involved in,” she stressed.
The Sinn Féin leader said she believed the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union had shifted the balance in favour of Irish unity and argued that a conversation around reunification needed to be had.
“When you see the antics in Westminster in the past couple of years people know exactly why we need to turn our backs on Westminster.
“I believe the debate now on our island is about Irish unity. It’s now a mainstream debate on how we are going to plan for a new future.
“Brexit has been foisted upon us and deal or no deal, even if the Withdrawal Agreement goes through, it will leave us high and dry in so many ways. So we think that now is the time to have the question of Irish unity put to the people as per the GFA.”
Next month’s local Council elections happen to take place on the 850th anniversary of the Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland. After the best part of a millennium does Mrs. O’Neill think Irish sovereignty is soon set to be finally realised?
“It’s less than 850 years! I actually believe it’s in the next number of years. We had a position when we said we believed it would be in the next five years but Brexit fundamentally changed all of that. In the event of a crash-out Brexit in October then it’s imperative the question be put. That’s enough of a reason to put the question to the people. It’s part of the GFA. It’s for all of us to decide on our future together. We want the conversation to be an inclusive conversation, a mature conversation.”