Eastwood invokes Parnell’s ‘no man can halt march of a nation’ in calling on Britain to publish unity criteria

Colum Eastwood has invoked the memory of Charles Stewart Parnell in the British House of Commons when calling on the British Government to publish clear criteria for a unity referendum.
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The Foyle MP quoted one of the most famous speeches of the former leader of the Home Rule League.

Mr. Eastwood was speaking after the British Supreme Court ruled that it was outside the rights of the Scottish Parliament to call for a fresh independence referendum in Scotland.

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The SDLP leader said: “A former Member of Parliament for Cork City once said: ‘No man has the right to fix a boundary to the march of a nation. No man has the right to say to his country, Thus far shalt thou go and no further.

Charles Stewart ParnellCharles Stewart Parnell
Charles Stewart Parnell

“Of course, this Parliament no longer has a Member for Cork City, because Charles Stewart Parnell was right. This United Kingdom is clearly not a partnership of equals – that has been made absolutely clear today – so when will the Government publish clear criteria for how the people of the north of Ireland can leave it?”

Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, replied: “I suggest that the hon. Gentleman ask that question at Northern Ireland questions.”

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Following the exchange Mr. Eastwood said he is calling on the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to today set out the criteria for a referendum on Irish unity in the interests of ‘democratic transparency’.

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The Principle of Consent negotiated in the Good Friday Agreement gives Northern Ireland a clear and legal pathway to a new constitutional future outside of the union with Great Britain but the power to call a referendum remains with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, he said.

“The choice about the North’s future should be based on a contest of ideas, rooted in the interests of our people and all our communities,” he stated.

Parnell, whose memory Mr. Eastwood invoked in the British parliament, was reputedly a visitor to Derry in the late 19th century.

Brendan McCauley, who released the album, 'The McCartney's of Pennyburn: 1865-1912' in 2015, reported how his great, great, grandfather's son "John, an ardent Land Leaguer and one of Ireland’s first Catholic magistrates" invited Parnell to the Pennyburn Estate in the 1880s.