Mary Lou McDonald discusses Ireland and Palestine in keynote address at Georgetown University

Sinn Féin Leader Mary Lou McDonald speaking in Georgetown University this afternoon discussed ongoing change in Ireland; including the re-establishment of political institutions in the north, preparations for constitutional change and the urgent needs for a ceasefire in Gaza and the renewal of a peace process to secure Palestinian statehood and a secure Israel.

Ms. McDonald said, “My message from Ireland today is a message of hope, opportunity and optimism.  It is a message of reunification, as we work to build a new Ireland as a home for everyone.

“Seismic generational change is underway right across the country. Twenty six years ago the historic Good Friday Agreement was signed.  It was an agreement that transcended the past and changed the future for all of us. Today, a new generation – pulsing with ambition, talent and ingenuity – is determined to write the next chapter in Ireland’s story. The most powerful expression of this change is seen in Michelle O’Neill’s election as First Minister, where she leads the Executive alongside DUP Deputy First Minister Emma Little Pengelly.

“Recently, Michelle and Emma visited a childcare facility on the Shankill Road together, and DUP Education Minister Paul Givan visited a Gaelscoil in Dungannon where he did a spot of traditional Irish dancing and said that the Irish language “belongs to all of us”. These small moments are powerful and we shouldn’t miss their significance in shaping the future.

“A new Ireland has never been closer. We are living in the end days of partition. The cost of partition – economically, socially and politically – has been far too high. Ireland’s future now comes into sharp focus. We have built the peace, now is the time to build the momentum for reunification.

“The genius of the Good Friday Agreement is that it facilitates power sharing,  protects citizens’ rights and manages political differences. Most importantly, it provides for referendums on Irish Unity, north and south. The future of Ireland is in the hands of the people. 

“I believe that these referendums will happen in this decade. These referendums can be won and won well. But we take nothing for granted. It is now a matter of winning hearts and minds.

“As an Irish republican, I will argue passionately for Irish Unity. As an Irish republican, I will also listen with respect to the views who wll argue for the preservation of the Union with Britain. We must be ready. Now is the time to plan and prepare for constitutional change in Ireland. To plan for unity.

“The Irish government must lead what is the most important conversation for a generation and establish a Citizen’s Assembly on Irish Unity – an inclusive civic forum that belongs to everyone who wishes to share their ideas, debate the future and chart a new course for all the people of Ireland, together.  This is the exciting future before us. We must seize the opportunity with both hands and continue the work of building Ireland as a united nation home for all.

“The United States has always stood shoulder to shoulder with Ireland. Without the friendship of the US there would have been no peace process and the contribution made by the US to Ireland’s economic development is profound. 

“We are grateful for that friendship, for that commitment, for the US keeping the faith with Ireland. We now ask that you continue to walk with us on the final length of the journey to reunification and Ireland taking its rightful place amongst the nations of the world. 

“Throughout this week we have been speaking to leaders on Capitol Hill and to the US Administration, about the changethat is underway in Ireland but also the ongoing slaughter in Gaza.  What is happening in Gaza is the gravest human rights violations of our time. Happening before the eyes of the world.

“Over the last six months, Gaza has become a graveyard for children.  Children whose lives carry the same value as the lives of my own children and children the world over. History has its eyes on us. 

“We cannot say we didn’t hear, that we didn’t see, that we didn’t know. Our children and our grandchildren will one day look at us and ask how this was allowed to happen, and why the international community was so slow to respond. 

“In Ireland, we know the pain of conflict but we also know the value of hard won peace. The achievement of the Good Friday Agreement shows that no conflict is intractable, that peace is always possible and peace must now be the shared will of the international community.

“Leaders in the United States and across the world must now push unequivocally for an immediate  full, permanent ceasefire and for the renewal of a peace process that can deliver a just settlement, Palestinian statehood and a secure Israel.

“This is the only way that the children of Gaza and Tel Aviv, the children of Haifa and Ramallah can have the future they deserve.”

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