The Sinn Féin President said as the economic implications of Brexit take shape there is an opportunity to promote a new, agreed Ireland
Gerry Adams has told a major public debate on Irish unity that taking Northern Ireland out of the EU will threaten the Good Friday Agreement.
The 'Towards a United Ireland' conference is taking place in the Mansion House in Dublin today.
The discussion - marking the 98th anniversary of the meeting of the First Dáil in the same building in 1919 - brings together a host of different groups and commentators to stimulate debate on how a future United Ireland might look.
Addressing the meeting this afternoon, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said the British government’s intention to take the North out of the EU against the wishes of the electorate is a “hostile action.”
The Good Friday Agreement
The Sinn Féin president warned that fundamental human rights enshrined in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement could be undermined by the action
The top legal adviser to Stormont ministers however, has already said "not one word or phrase" in the Agreement would be affected.
Mr Adams said it is time to address the genuine fears and concerns of unionists in a meaningful way and called on the people of Ireland to be open to new concepts in order to design the pathway to a new, agreed, inclusive united Ireland.
“What is clear is that partition has failed unionists,” said Mr Adams. “It has failed nationalists, it has failed the people of this island and ending partition has now taken on a new imperative following last summer’s Brexit vote.”
“Clearly the preferred option of many unionists and many nationalists is to remain within the EU.
“The speech by Theresa May will have reinforced this. The dangers of a hard Brexit are now more obvious than before.”
Mr Adams said partition served to create two, “narrow, mean-minded, conservative, elitist, sectarian regimes” north and south of the border.
“In the North a deeply sectarian unionist regime institutionalised decades of inequality and injustice,” he said.
“In this state, poverty, emigration and inequality was rampant.”
Strategic plan for Brexit
He claimed the Irish government has no strategic plan for approaching the Brexit negotiations.
"The North needs a special designated status within the EU," he said. "The Irish government needs to adopt this as a strategic objective in its negotiations within the EU 27 as they negotiate with the British Prime Minister.”
He said the Brexit uncertainty and the controversy surrounding the RHI scandal is "is creating new political conditions"
"The citizens of England and Wales voted to leave the EU," he said. "The people of Scotland and of the North voted to remain.
"As the dire economic implications of Brexit take shape there is an opportunity to promote a new agreed Ireland.
Agreed inclusive united Ireland
"I believe that if we properly frame the positive arguments the potential of a new, re-imagined, confident Ireland within the European Union, will prove attractive to some unionists."
He said there is now an onus on the Irish government to "promote a real plan for unity" and called for the development of an all-island National Health Service and for all island public services through a ‘United Ireland Investment and Prosperity Plan.’
"Now is the time for all parties who support Irish unity to come together to design the pathway to a new, agreed, inclusive united Ireland – an Ireland that is built on equality and which is citizen-centred and inclusive," he said.