Sinn Féin’s leader in the North, Michelle O’Neill, with veteran republican Joe Austin at the Easter Rising commemoration on Belfast’s Falls Road
By Anthony Neeson
Sinn Féin’s leader in Northern Ireland, Michelle O’Neill, has called for a referendum on Irish unity within the next five years.
O’Neill made the remarks while speaking at an Easter Commemoration in Belfast’s Milltown Cemetery.
“I am confident as the consequences of Brexit become clearer and as we get closer to the withdrawal stage that more people from a unionist background will be open to the idea of exploring new relationships on our island, and between Ireland and Britain,” she told those gathered.
“Because Brexit exposes the undemocratic nature of partition. Sinn Féin believes there should be a referendum vote on Irish unity within the next five years.
“I believe now is the time to plan a new, agreed and united Ireland, in which all identities and traditions have a place and the opportunity to contribute to our shared nation.”
The Mid-Ulster MLA said it was now time to heal the wounds of the past and build a new society together.
“Republicans and unionists have conflicting narratives, conflicting histories and conflicting allegiances,” she said.
“That’s the reality. Part of the journey to reconciliation is about recognizing that to be the case.
“Much hurt has been caused and real pain inflicted on all sides of the community.
“It takes time to heal those wounds and to build a new society together where we respect each other.
“The whole point in having joint heads of government in the Executive is because there is a responsibility on the two main political leaders to bridge the divide between us and those we represent.
“That is what I am up for. That is where I am focused. But I need a unionist leader who is up for that also, so that together we can serve the entire community fairly.
“I will not lead an unjust government which denies citizens their rights, so we need to remove those obstacles to fix that.”