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Protesters square off as Sinn Fein speakers call for reunification poll

03 April, 2018 — By Leo Garib

POLICE confronted protesters in Bloomsbury as Sinn Fein launched its political campaign to reunite the north and south of Ireland.

Several dozen protesters, for and against Irish unification, squared off outside TUC Congress House over the weekend as police ringed the building where the Irish republican party was announcing the British leg of its push for a border poll on reunification.

Speakers, including former Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams, new leader Mary Lou McDonald and vice-president Michelle O’Neil addressed the packed Towards a United Ireland conference. Brexit has changed everything, they said, with opposition crossing the sectarian divide and a majority likely in a referendum that would enable Northern Ireland to effectively re-join the EU.

“The tide of history, the flow of politics is toward a united Ireland,” Adams said.

He warned “Brexit is bad for the Good Friday Agreement and for Ireland” with senior Tories admitting they want to unpick parts of it and the government planning to end the jurisdictions of the European Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Human Rights Act which underpin the Agreement. Theresa May was “actively encouraging the most regressive and the most sectarian political unionism to undermine the Agreement”.

The party, which could become a majority party in Northern Ireland and has growing support in the south, is calling for a border poll within five years because Brexit threatens the Good Friday Agreement.

The Agreement allows for a reunification referendum if a majority north and south of the border wants one. Westminster would have to approve a poll. Former Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, is one of the leaders to have flagged up the idea two years ago, but the Tories have so far ruled it out.

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald warned the Tories to protect the Agreement, reconvene Stormont, protect gay marriage and equality, and give Irish language official status – policies bitterly opposed by the DUP.

“These rights cannot be held hostage,” she said. “No party can crash the dialogue and expect everybody else to wait indefinitely.”

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