Gerry Adams has said that a united Ireland is not “an inevitability”, and said that unionists must be pursuaded of its merits.
The long-time Sinn Fein president made the remarks in a speech circulated to the press on Thursday night, in which he said he wanted a unity referendum within five years (a call he had made previously).
He gave the address in Tralee, Co Kerry, at the launch of a book about republican hunger strikers (beginning with a 1917 hunger strike) called ‘Ireland’s Hunger for Justice’.
The Sinn Fein statement said the party “is fully committed to the power sharing institutions and we are working diligently to restore them” – something flatly and regularly contradicted by his would-be partners in government, the DUP, along with other unionists.
It then went on add that “republicans, as part of the strategy to win Irish unity, [should] engage with unionism and seek their support”.
Mr Adams said: “The potential for progress demands a new approach aimed at unlocking unionist opposition to a new future by reminding them of the positive contribution they have made to society on this island...
“Several months ago, just before the Dáil recess, I wrote to the leaders of the political parties in the Oireachtas about establishing an all-party Oireachtas Committee on Irish unity.
“Sinn Fein will also be bringing forward a white paper on Irish unity. And we want to see a referendum on unity in the next five years.
“We believe that Irish unity is achievable and winnable. But it is not inevitable. It has to be worked for. It has to be planned for. There are no short cuts.
“It is a huge challenge for those of us who want to go beyond the rhetoric of a united Ireland to the actual achievement of that objective.”
He said a free, prosperous and unified island would be “the best monument we could build” to republican hunger strikers.
On April 20, 2003, Mr Adams was quoted as indicating that united Ireland was in fact inevitable, in an article in The Independent.
The article, covering an Easter Rising speech he gave, began: “The creation of a united Ireland is an inevitable consequence of the Northern Ireland peace process, Gerry Adams said yesterday.”
It went on to quote Mr Adams as saying: “There will be a united Ireland.
“And our task... should be to prepare for reunification.
“I am not saying this to frighten or destabilise unionism, but because I believe that many unionists also recognise the change that is taking place.”