Unity would provide economic windfall of €23.5 billion and transform fortunes of Derry and Donegal

When Derry City and Strabane District Council accepted my proposal to establish a working group on Irish Unity, it was a first for any local authority on the island of Ireland.

Tuesday, 16th November 2021, 11:32 am

Six months on and it has already proven to be a worthwhile exercise as we continue to engage and analyse the evidence of what Irish reunification could mean in practice.

And there is no doubt the potential is huge.

The most recent international study concluded that reunification would provide an economic windfall of €23.5 billion by 2025.

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That kind of financial injection will enable us to redesign public services such as health and education, ensuring they are first class and free for citizens across the whole island of Ireland. That is particularly relevant here in the north west where our economic potential has been so badly stunted by partition.

In Derry and Donegal, where so many individuals live and work on different sides of the border, it is also ludicrous to maintain two currencies, two health systems, two education systems and two tax systems.

The north has the slowest growing economy on this island - and the northwest is continuously lagging behind with jobs that are lower-paid and less secure than elsewhere on the island.

A United Ireland offers the best opportunity to tackle these issues in a way that can economically advantage all the people of Ireland as well as providing our route back to full membership of the EU.

Clearly, we in Sinn Féin are advocates for a United Ireland. But we accept that many others are yet to be convinced and it is our task to persuade those people, sectors and communities of why it’s in their best economic and political interests to share power on an All-Ireland basis together.

That is why we need the debate. That is why we need the type of evidence based discussion that the council working group is pursuing.

No-one has anything to fear from an open and inclusive debate about how we design our future together. It doesn’t have to be divisive. It can be engaging, informative and energising as the referendum campaign in Scotland demonstrated.

Sinn Féin wants to work with every shade of opinion to build a new and agreed Ireland. That is the responsible thing to do.

Local councils cannot carry out this work alone so the Irish Government must also live up to its responsibilities by convening an entirely representative all–Ireland forum to plan for Irish Unity.

Brexit, the pandemic and demographic changes are fuelling a growing sense that circumstances are rapidly changing which will inevitably lead to constitutional change on this island.

As public representatives, we have a duty to prepare for that. The Good Friday Agreement gives people the opportunity and choice to decide our future.

We must all grasp that opportunity together.