Happy New Year. I hope you got a break over Christmas and returned rejuvenated and ready for action. This is going to be a busy year. In the South of Ireland, we have European Parliament and local Government elections at the beginning of June. It is also likely that we face a constitutional referendum in March.
Hanging over these dates are potential general elections across Ireland and Britain. Unlike the US, Ireland and Britain do not have fixed election dates. There is an absolute hard stop of the first quarter of next year, but governments have the advantage of setting the actual date between now and then.
By the end of this year, we could have new governments in Dublin and London and a changed European parliament in addition to the outcomes of US Presidential and Congressional elections.
While governments may change; challenges remain. In the North of Ireland, the DUP continues to block government formation, and North/South bodies remain in a holding pattern. The current British Government has facilitated the blocking tactics of the DUP. The two governments – co-equal partners in the agreements – have failed to bring forward a contingency plan in the event of continued DUP disruption.
The British Government continues to defend their legacy legislation which breaches both the Good Friday Agreement and the European Convention of Human Rights. In light of the British government’s unilateral actions, the Irish Government has instigated legal action against the British in the European Courts. The case is expected to be heard next year. It remains to be seen if a new British Government will seek to defend the current government’s approach or return to the agreements in partnership with the Irish Government.
The opportunity for the coming year is to continue to build the momentum for Irish Unity and to secure dates for unity referendums as provided for in the Good Friday Agreement. The current Irish government has prevaricated on the issue and refused to plan, prepare, or advocate for unity.
Sinn Féin will continue to advance the cause of Irish Unity and the building of an Ireland which is a prosperous and peaceful place for all who share our island. Friends of Sinn Féin will continue to work to make that possible, and I hope that you will continue the journey with us.
This year could redefine Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations for the better. That is an opportunity not to be missed.
Have a great weekend.
Ciarán Quinn is the Sinn Féin Representative to North America. Each week he writes a letter from Ireland with news and analysis. It is featured in the weekly Friends of Sinn Féin USA Newsletter. Be sure you are subscribed to stay up to date.