Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy delivered the main address at the Easter Rising Commemoration in Cork City today.
He told the large crowd that events at home abroad, not least the recent Northern election, heralded major political change in Ireland.
He said the challenge for republicans is to influence and manage this change, to build support for Irish unity and to win a referendum on the issue.
Matt Carthy said:
“Brexit has highlighted, in stark terms, the undemocratic, unnatural and unjust nature of partition. One thing is clearer than ever – Partition’s time is over!
“The North has been transformed in recent years, and that transformation is ongoing. It is no longer the Orange state.
“Many of the certainties held for so long by the old unionist political establishment are gone. These changes will continue and are irreversible.
“In this context, I believe that it is essential that those who advocate unity, lay out their vision of what a united Ireland might look like.
“Changing political circumstances in Europe, Britain and Ireland are creating fresh opportunities for new relationships between the two historic traditions on the island of Ireland.
“I believe that there are people from the unionist community, particularly among a younger generation, who are willing to explore new opportunities to create a shared society.
“I also believe that the appeal of being part of a new, reimagined and outward-looking Ireland will prove ever more attractive to such people.
“Significant demographic changes are occurring in the North, the effects of which are already being felt.
“Political ideology, based solely on opposition to Irish unity, is unsustainable in the long term.
“People in the North need real answers to everyday social and economic problems and, as the North changes, wrapping everything up in the Union Jack will prove an increasingly threadbare position.
“The British identity of many people in the North can and will be accommodated and in a united Ireland.
“Sinn Féin’s Towards a United Ireland discussion document aims to stimulate debate on this issue and I encourage all republicans to familiarise themselves with the ideas in it.
“We have called on other parties who claim to support Irish unity to publish their own ideas.
“It is imperative too that the Irish Government prepares a real plan for unity.
“Sinn Féin has advocated the development of an all-party group in the Oireachtas to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity.”
Stating that Sinn Féin was not arguing for a mere grafting of the North onto the current political, cultural and economic status quo of the South, he said:
“We want to see the creation of a new Ireland with equal rights and equal opportunities for all, and where citizens have rights – including the right to a job, to a home, and a decent standard of healthcare and education.
“For 80-odd years now Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have dominated politics in this State.
“Both parties turned their backs on the people of the North, but they also subjected ordinary people in the South to inequality, economic failure and mass emigration.
“The Irish state is not the republic envisaged by those who wrote the Proclamation.
“The 1916 Leaders had a vision for a real republic – a republic of justice, equality and fairness – a republic for all the people of this island.
“That is in direct contradiction to the policies being pursued by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil.
“Here at Easter, is important to remember that the ideals of equality and social justice at the heart of the 1916 Proclamation are required in Ireland as much today as they ever were.
“A genuine republic would never allow homelessness to reach emergency proportions.
“A real Republic would never tolerate the scandal and indignities witnessed in our hospital A&E wards.
“An authentic Republic would not facilitate the huge levels of disadvantage and inequality which currently exist in this society.
“A real republican government would not seek to privatise our transport services and throw public sector workers onto the scrap heap.”
Carthy said that Sinn Féin in 2017 represented the greatest challenge yet to those who have ruled the Southern state since Partition, and he continued:
“Our opponents know this and they fear it. That is why they, and their cheerleaders in the establishment media, attack us so regularly and with such venom.
“They know that the stronger Sinn Féin gets, and the more that people respond to our message, the sooner the power and privilege enjoyed for so long by the elites in this state, will be ended.
“Unlike Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin has a vision, grounded in genuine republican values.
“Our vision is that of Tone, Connolly and Sands. It is the vision of Martin McGuinness.”
He said opportunities for real and far- reaching political change are within grasp, old political certainties were gone and the grip of old parties is loosening.
“In the North, the perpetual unionist majority has ended. In the South, conservative pillars of society which have sustained inequality, corruption and injustice for so long are being exposed like never before. Meanwhile Europe is in a state of political flux.
“Now is the time to seize opportunities to build a new Ireland – an Ireland that will be a fitting tribute to our patriot dead.
“As we remember our patriot dead today, let us be clear – a united Ireland and an egalitarian republic is the only fitting monument to their sacrifices.
“And let me be equally clear that the Sinn Féin leadership of 2017 is as determined to achieve those objectives as were our comrades who went before us.”