Sinn Féin MP John Finucane has challenged the Irish government to catch up with the mood of the people of Ireland and begin actively preparing for Irish unity.
Speaking during an address to the Brehon Law Society in New York, the north Belfast MP said:
“The debate on Irish unity is already under way. The question is not about if there will be a unity referendum but when will there be a unity referendum.
“Sinn Féin believes there should be one within the next five years.
“If Brexit demonstrates anything it is for the need for a respectful and informed debate in advance of a unity referendum. No Irish government should or could be neutral on the issue of Irish unity.
“Yet Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael try and close down the discussion.
“They say now is not the time. Now is exactly the time. The debate is underway, demographic change is happening, the political sands are shifting. The old certainties are gone, and new alliances are developing. Since the Brexit referendum, which the majority of people in the north did not vote for, people are looking to the future and what type of society they want to belong to and shape.
“There is an obligation on an Irish Government to prepare and to plan.
“Failure to do so is a derogation of their duty to safeguard the interests of the Irish nation.
“I would hope that the incoming Irish government reflects on this reality.
“That means the Irish government need to begin to plan for a referendum, promote the discussion and build a vision of a new and united Ireland.
“A referendum will not be won by waving a flag, it will not be won by sitting on the sidelines and will not be won by excluding sections of the community or failing to address their fears.”