Sinn Fein organised support for ‘civic society’ letter to Irish premier

Sinn Fein leaders Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Fein leaders Michelle O'Neill, Gerry Adams and Mary Lou McDonald

Sinn Fein mobilised its base in the Irish Republic to garner support for a letter from high-profile members of civic society urging the taoiseach to push for law changes in Northern Ireland.

The letter from 100 prominent people in fields such as sport, law and the arts calls on Leo Varadkar to ensure citizens north of the border have the same rights as those in his jurisdiction.

A similar public letter was sent to the taoiseach signed by high-profile nationalists in Northern Ireland before Christmas.

The latest letter – signed by well-known names such as musicians Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Glen Hansard and Frances Black, and delivered to Mr Varadkar’s office last Friday – presses Mr Varadkar to lobby for legislation for Irish language speakers and same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland – two of the key sticking points in the Stormont power-sharing talks.

It also urges the taoiseach to take action to ensure families impacted by the Troubles can get timely access to the courts. Long-running delays to conflict-related inquests is another unresolved issue at Stormont.

An email obtained by the Press Association indicates that Sinn Fein was involved in an organised nationwide effort to find individuals willing to sign the letter.

The email sent last week by a senior party officer in the Irish Republic to council leaders across the state read: “We are seeking support from public figures at local and national level in the areas of the arts, culture, legal, business, community etc and so far have some 70 signatories including Christy Moore, Damien Dempsey, Glen Hansard and Frances Black.

“But there are also many more signatories without a national profile but who are well known in communities for the work that they do. And this is where you come in ...

“We are looking for your help to get this up to 100 by the end of the day.

“Please get in touch with suggested names as well as a link person who will contact them.”

A Sinn Fein spokesman confirmed the party assisted in the endeavour.

“We were asked to assist by the organisers of this initiative in garnering support for a civic lobby in support of the rights-based agenda in the north,” he said.

“We are happy to do so, to give voice to the frustrations felt throughout Irish civic society at the denial of basic rights in the north.”