Colum Eastwood speaking at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis. RollingNews.ie photo
By Anthony Neeson
SDLP leader Colum Eastwood has used his historic address at the Fianna Fáil Ard Fheis to tell delegates that there will be a “special place in hell” for those calling for a border poll without having a plan.
Mr. Eastwood was echoing European Council President Donald Tusk who made similar remarks last month about Brexiteers in Britain. In recent weeks Fianna Fáil and the SDLP have announced plans for an all-island partnership.
In May 2017 the SDLP leader called for a referendum on Irish unity after Brexit as he launched his party’s Westminster manifesto. Opinion polls in recent months have shown increased support for a border poll on Irish reunification.
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During his speech the Derry MLA criticized Sinn Féin for not taking their seats in the House of Commons. Last week eleven British Labour and Conservative MPs left their parties to form an independent group as tensions over Brexit opened new fault lines in British politics.
“There is no point saying you oppose Brexit if you’re not prepared to turn up and vote against it,” he said.
“This country is in the middle of a national emergency. In Britain, Theresa May’s majority is disintegrating before our eyes.
“How can anyone use the pretense of patriotism to avoid their responsibilities to protect the citizens of this country?
“I say this to Sinn Féin, it’s still an empty formula, get in there and do your duty to this country or be forever defined by empty rhetoric.”
Mr. Eastwood said a new and reconciled Ireland will only ever be built by fully recognizing the “changing island of today.”
“For our young people especially, the picture of their world is no longer reflected in the murals of our past. Old political certainties and old majorities are no more.
“On an island of new minorities the only option is to build a broad coalition for change. That changed Ireland won’t be built upon the rubble of our history. It will instead be based on the values we invest in modern nationhood”
He added: “We will only succeed in reaching that new Ireland if we first provide it with definition and detail. And no referendum should be called until that work is done.
“There will be a special place reserved in hell for those who call for a border poll in Ireland with no plan and idea on how to actually deliver it.”