A new border poll on a united Ireland is top of Sinn Fein’s wish list for 2013, party president Gerry Adams said in a New Year’s message.
“The North is no longer a unionist fiefdom and must reflect Irishness and Britishness with equality of treatment as envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement. Equality also means freedom to pursue political objectives peacefully and democratically. In the coming weeks, Sinn Fein will launch a campaign to secure a border poll,” Adams said in the message.
However, the North’s first minister Peter Robinson, in a New Year’s message of his own, says that the union with Britain remains strong, rendering calls for a border poll unjustified.
“I’m proud of my British heritage. I’m proud to be part of the United Kingdom. I’m glad that support for the union in Northern Ireland is at its highest level with recent polls showing less than 10 percent supporting a united-Ireland now,” Robinson said, adding that Catholics are “content with the constitutional status quo.”
Robinson also touched on the contentious Union flag issue which caused outbreaks of violence late last year, after Belfast City Council slashed the number of days the Union flag could fly over City Hall from 365 to 15.
While Robinson called the vote to remove the flag provocative, he said violence was the wrong response.
“People are entitled – even justified in protesting – but nobody can justify threats, acts of violence or other unlawful behavior. Right-thinking unionists will want to channel their opposition to this, and similar decisions, into political activity aimed at strengthening our British culture and identity,” he said.
The North’s deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness of Sinn Fein, said he was hopeful that the year ahead would bring further reconciliation between nationalists and unionists.
“I earnestly hope that we will continue to move towards the development of a new phase in our peace process in 2013, and that the seeds of reconciliation among and between all our people will grow. My decision to meet Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Belfast earlier this year was a sincere effort on my behalf to advance reconciliation between republicans and unionists and consolidate our peace process,” he said.