A reply from the Sinn Fein president to the letter published on this page from Terry Wright last week (‘We listened to you with respect, yet the banner episode has undermined trust,’ March 21):
Terry a Chara,
Recently I was part of a dialogue with leaders of civic unionism at the Queen’s University Belfast. The discussion was respectful, informative and challenging.
At the event, I stated that we had a duty of candour to each other. A duty to be truthful with each other, to listen and not misrepresent each other. I made clear my belief that ending partition and unity is the future and in best interests of all our people. I have never tried to mislead or mask that belief. I am, after all, the leader of Sinn Féin.
I am known for my straight talking. I do not hide behind ambiguity. I believe that reconciliation requires us to be honest and to listen as equals.
Not to second guess, search for hidden meanings or put words in each other’s mouths.
I have no problem with others objecting to my views.
But I am concerned when my views are misrepresented, as that poisons the political process and undermines reconciliation.
The St Patrick’s Day banner is quite clear. It is about ending partition and the interference of a parliament in London in the affairs of the people who share this island.
An approach made more evident given the current Brexit shambles.
The words on the banner are clear. They are unambiguous and should not be misrepresented. It is about England and its claim to any part of this island. It is an Irish republican analysis and aspiration shared by many at home and abroad.
The banner echoes the words of United Irelander and one of the founders of modern Irish Republicanism, Theobald Wolfe Tone, who sought to unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter to “break the connection with England”.
The banner does not say “English out of Ireland”. I would never stand behind any such banner and those sentiments have no place in our society, never mind a parade.
In my speech at Queen’s, that is available online, I made clear that a new and united Ireland, will and must, be a home for all whether you are British, Irish, both or neither.
That rights of citizenship, respect and parity of esteem must be guaranteed for all in a united Ireland. I have no interest in a united Ireland that is not a home to any section of the community.
Like you I am dedicated to working for reconciliation and the building of an inclusive community of equal citizens regardless of identity, culture, gender, faith or heritage.
The Good Friday Agreement provides for a peaceful and democratic pathway to Irish unity. A united Ireland is not about bolting the North on to the South. It is an opportunity to build a new Ireland and inclusive governance, one in which all citizens will play a central role.
A new and united Ireland is emerging, it is up to us all to work together, to be truthful and to listen to what we actually say to each other as we travel that path.
Mary Lou McDonald TD, President of Sinn Féin