Sinn Fein to tell Corbyn: help us protect Irish interests

Sinn Fein leaders are to tell Jeremy Corbyn that Irish interests must be protected whatever the outcome of his Brexit negotiations with the Prime Minister.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald and vice president Michelle O’Neill will hold talks with the Labour leader in London on Monday.

Mrs McDonald outlined the message she would deliver to Mr Corbyn while unveiling the party’s European and local council election candidates in Co Dublin on Sunday.

Party president Mary Lou McDonald, centre, addresses the media (SinnFein/PA)

At the event in Roganstown, the republican leader confirmed Sinn Fein would hold a convention in Belfast next weekend to select a candidate to contest a potential European election in Northern Ireland.

“We are ready for the task ahead, these are very important elections because we are at a very critical time, not least because of Brexit and the chaos in London which continues,” she said.

“We spoke with Prime Minister Theresa May in the course of last week and tomorrow a Sinn Fein delegation will go to London.

“We will meet with Jeremy Corbyn. We will set out again the very clear need to protect Irish interests and make it very clear that whatever way Brexit lands – deal or no deal –  Irish interests have to be protected.”

She added: “Our peace process, our all-Ireland economy and crucially, our citizens’ rights, cannot be the collateral damage to the Tory Brexit.”

Mrs O’Neill told the launch event that Irish unity was within grasp of republicans.

The party’s vice president Michelle O’Neill believes Irish Unity is ‘within our grasp’ (Sinn Fein/PA)

“A new conversation and public discourse is underway about Ireland’s strategic interests post-Brexit and our constitutional future,” she said. “People of all shades of opinion can see that the Good Friday Agreement provides a peaceful and democratic path to Irish Unity and with it a pathway back into the EU.

“The political landscape is changing. Change is in the air. Over the past two elections in the north the unionist majority has gone.

“The notion of a perpetual unionist majority – the very basis of partition – is gone.

“Brexit has now also completely transformed the context.

“People who were previously apathetic about a United Ireland are re-engaged, and people who would have been opposed to a United Ireland are now reconsidering their position.

“There is no doubt that Brexit has been a catalyst for mainstreaming the debate, where people of all shades of opinion are considering the benefits of remaining within the United Kingdom against the merits of staying within the European Union through a unified Ireland.

“What Brexit means – Deal or No Deal – is that a United Ireland is no longer a long-term aim.

“A referendum on Irish unity is a very real prospect within the next number of years. A United Ireland is within our grasp.”

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