The European Parliament discussed experiences of partition and reunification in Germany and Cyprus and looked at what lessons Ireland might learn at a hearing in Brussels on Tuesday, November 12.

More than 100 people attended the event where chairperson Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy and panelists – academic Gerard McCann, economist Michael Burke and Ruth Tallion from the Centre for Cross Border Studies – discussed the challenges of Irish unity.

Sinn Fein MEP Martina Anderson called on the Irish government to prepare for reunification by publishing a green paper on unity, according to a report in the Derry Journal.

“We need to start a serious debate on reunification. As republicans we are actively planning and preparing for reunification and others need to be doing the same.”

She continued, “I want to see a serious debate starting on this subject in order to fully prepare and it is something everyone needs to take part in, including those who support us and those who have different views.”

{According to the treaty ending the War of Independence, the six counties that make up Northern Ireland could opt out of the new Irish Free State, which they did. Both government ratified the treaty in 1922.} The terms of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement allow for a 'border referendum' once every seven years. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland can call a referendum any time they think a change is likely to occur.

A referendum would have to take place on each side of the border and if passed on each side the two states would unite. However, a recent poll by the Belfast Telegraph indicated that less than 25% of those polled would vote for a united Ireland in 20 years.

GUE/NGL (Confederal Group of the European United Left/ Nordic Green left) MEPs reiterated their support for a united Ireland. EurActive reported that GUE/NGL President Gabi Zimmer stated, “The GUE/NGL has always supported the peace process in Ireland. From the German experience unification did not benefit everybody. To be successful the Irish process of unification must be better – it must benefit all people.”

She elaborated, “From visits to Ireland I have seen that there is still a lot of work to be done to remove the border in Ireland. There is an urgent need for cross-border infrastructure –  something that the EU should prioritize in its structural funding.”