Alliance says ‘just because we are involved in an event run by pro-Irish unity group does not mean we endorse that view’

The Alliance Party says that its deputy leader is not endorsing the notion of a united Ireland as he prepares to take part in a panel talk run by a pro-Irish unity campaign group.

By Adam Kula
Tuesday, 17th May 2022, 5:02 am

Dr Stephen Farry is set to speak at the event organised by Ireland’s Future in London tomorrow, alongside a number of nationalist figures.

The event is the latest in a raft of such talks staged by the group, the stated aim of which is “paving the way to the re-unification of the island”.

It describes itself as a company based in Dublin, and solicits donations so that it can:

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“A) Promote a Unity referendum;

“B) Advance the arguments that will win that referendum;

“C) Create the conditions that will make a unified Ireland peaceful and prosperous.”

The panel talk tomorrow will be held in Westminster at 7pm, featuring Mr Farry alongside Neale Richmond (Fine Gael TD), John Finucane (Sinn Fein MP), Claire Hanna (SDLP MP) and Ian Blackford (SNP MP).

It will be chaired by presenter Andrea Catherwood, and will include remarks by Labour lord Alf Dubs.

South Antrim DUP MP Paul Girvan said: “The Alliance Party hasn’t decided yet if its unionist or nationalist, but one only needs to look at their participation in anti-Union events like this.

“It was the Alliance Party that helped Sinn Fein to remove the Union flag at City Hall.

“It was the Alliance Party who stood with Sinn Fein calling for the rigorous implementation of the Protocol despite it placing a barrier between NI and our biggest market in GB.

“When you look at the Alliance Party’s track record, its no surprise that Stephen Farry is on that stage. Alliance are behaving like Sinn Fein’s wee helper on the Protocol, and now on leaving the UK.”

On the question of why it is taking part in a re-unification discussion, given its official policy of neutrality, the party told the News Letter: “Alliance has participated in a number of similar discussions on a non-prejudicial basis and will continue to do so, likewise with those who organise similar pro-union events.

“We are participating in a debate and not endorsing any particular view. People should have the political maturity to know the difference.”

Back in March, Alliance leader Naomi Long had told BBC NI’s Sunday Politics show: that at some stage the party is bound to pick a position for or against the Union.

She said “when we take a position, as undoubtedly will happen at some point in the future, it will be based on facts and evidence”.

But she also said that “for many people in our community, and for a growing number, it isn’t the thing that defines their politics”.

Ulster University has been polling the public on the question of Irish unity for decades, as part of its Life and Times survey, which has run since the 1990s.

It has found the proportion of those favouring Irish unity ranged from 30% in 2006, all the way down to 14% in 2015.

The average has been 20.4%.

A poll by the University of Liverpool in March found 30% would vote for Irish unity tomorrow.

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