Irish unity referendum within a decade - Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald at Derry commemoration

People will have the opportunity to vote on a referendum on Irish unity within the next decade, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald has said.

By Ciaran Lockhart
Tuesday, 29th June 2021, 12:56 pm
Mary Lou McDonald. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.
Mary Lou McDonald. Picture By: Arthur Allison/Pacemaker.

The party president said that this was her firm belief as she addressed the annual Derry Volunteers Commemoration at the weekend.

Mary Lou McDonald was the main speaker at this year’s annual commemoration.

Due to the on-going health & safety restrictions arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, this year’s event was held once again online, and shared across the party’s social media channels.

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Following a roll call of Derry’s Republican dead, the Sinn Fein President addressed viewers watching the commemoration by live video.

She said: “I’m honoured and delighted to be with you here today to remember all those republicans from Derry who gave their lives in pursuit of Irish freedom. Once again, we gather online due to the pandemic rather than at the republican plot in Derry City Cemetery. I want to say a special welcome to the families of our patriot dead and to extend to you our ongoing solidarity.

“The last number of weeks bring to mind the Derry that many of our patriot dead were born into – a northern state unable to cope with basic demands for civil rights and equality. And in many ways, it is still that failure to accept rights and equality which has been at the root of the political storm within unionism over the last few weeks.”

Mary Lou McDonald also told viewers that they will ‘stand firm’ on basic rights and entitlements.

“These are not up for discussion or negotiation. We are well past that time, and I believe that the majority of people right across society agree with us on that,” she said.

“Ireland has changed and the north is changing rapidly. The balance of power has shifted irreversibly as the unionist majority in Stormont have gone and more and more voices from across society are talking about what the future looks like. Change is in the air; change is coming, and we need to make it unstoppable.”

Outlining her party’s political hopes for the future, the Sinn Féin president said that the party wants “an Ireland built on the principles of equality, fairness and justice. An Ireland, free from division, inequality and injustice. An Ireland in which ordinary workers and families have decent housing, good healthcare and a fair economy that works for them”.

She added: “I firmly believe that within this decade the people will have the opportunity to freely choose new constitutional and political arrangements on this island, as underpinned by the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement. We will achieve the referendum on unity, and we can win it.

“This is an exciting time to be an Irish Republican. But opportunity only becomes reality if it is seized. We all have a part to play in getting there. We need to continue to build the party and bring more and more young people into our ranks. We need to talk and listen and learn,” she said.

Mary Lou McDonald also called on the Irish government to ‘lead from the front,’ in terms of preparing for a United Ireland. Mentioning Tánaiste and Fine Gael leader, Leo Varadkar, the Sinn Féin leader said:

“We need to see the preparations for change beginning in earnest and the Irish government need to lead from the front. Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar has said the time to start planning for Irish Unity is now. I hope that he, and the government of which he is a part, is as good as his word and will start this process now.”

In her closing remarks to viewers, she added: “One day we will have a new Republic. That must be our ambition. It will take patience and generosity. It will take courage and determination. It will take all of us to work together for the greater good. A new and united Ireland is the most fitting tribute we can pay to all those who have gone before.”

Also speaking at the event, Sinn Féin Councillor Conor Heaney, told viewers that 2021 marks the 50th anniversary of the passing of Eamonn Lafferty and James O’Hagan and the 40th anniversary of George Mc Brearty and Charles Maguire. 2021 also marks the 40th anniversary of the deaths of Hunger Strikers including five men from Derry: Francis Hughes, Patsy O’Hara, Thomas McElwee, Kevin Lynch and Michael Devine.

The video of the commemoration speeches is available at: