I plan to travel to the U.S. at the beginning of December to meet friends and supporters and to brief political leaders on the changes, challenges, and opportunities that mark this time.
My big message is that now is the time to make change happen and deliver on agreements that are crucial to a brighter future for all of Ireland.
It has been two years since my last trip. The world has changed immeasurably.
In November 2019 I briefed the Friends of Sinn Féin dinner in New York on preparations for a general election in the south and efforts to re-establish the Good Friday Agreements institutions in the north. Those talks ended in agreement and the Assembly was re-established.
Then in February 2020, we had the most seismic election result in over a century in what was undoubtedly the “change election.” More than half a million people voted for Sinn Féin’s vision of a fairer, stronger, united Ireland. They want us to represent them, to stand up for them, to protect their interests for the future. That is what we are doing.
We are now the largest party in the Dáil. I am the first woman to lead the opposition in Dublin. I hope that in the future I can lead a government for change as taoiseach.
No one envisaged Covid, the scale of the loss of life, or the separation of family and friends on each side of the Atlantic. Relationships were reduced to Zoom calls. It was hard for us all. It must have been very tough for the undocumented.
The Covid crisis also brought out the best in the community. Irish American nurses and doctors worked on the frontline. The community came together to take care of those in need. Meithal, an age-old Celtic concept, found new life in communities across Ireland and the U.S.
Relationships have endured the separation and challenge of Covid. For that, we are truly grateful.
Much has changed over the past two years. One constant has been the approach of the British government. Perfidious Albion reverted to type and breached international agreements with the Irish government and with the EU.
The response of the U.S. to this reckless behavior has been relentless, consistent, and honorable. Agreements made must be delivered and there will be no trade deal with Britain if they fail to honor agreements.
President Biden made this crystal clear when he issued a demarché, which is a formal diplomatic rebuke, to Britain for failing to honor their agreements. This is also seen in the ongoing bipartisan support in opposition to a hard border from being imposed on our island and in the rejection of the British government’s legacy proposals.
In the “New Decade, New Approach” accord in January 2020 the British committed to legislate within 100 days for the Stormont House Agreement on dealing with the legacy of the conflict. They have walked away from that agreement.
They are now proposing to bring forward a blanket and unconditional amnesty for their boys in the British military. At the same time, they are closing down all judicial investigations, coroners’ inquests, and shutting victims out of the legal process, and barring victims from taking civil cases.
And all the while the British government is still stalling on legislating for Acht na Gaeilge.
The British government needs to step back from the brink. We need constructive leadership. We need the political institutions to work. We need agreements made in good faith to be delivered.
We are in the midst of fundamental changes in, and between, Ireland and Britain. In the north, the perpetual unionist majority is gone. In the south, the appetite for change is increasing. It is now time to plan, prepare and build a new and united Ireland, free from the interference of Boris Johnson and Westminster.
The future is in the hands of the people. Thanks to the Good Friday Agreement a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity is achievable.
The support of the U.S. has always been invaluable. I hope you will continue to walk every step of the way with us.
* Mary Lou McDonald is the president of Sinn Fein, and a member of the Dail.