There is a “huge irony” in Sinn Féin asking America to pressure the Irish Government into holding a referendum on Irish unity, according to Ciara Kelly.
The Newstalk Breakfast presenter after Sinn Féin ran advertisements in a range of major US papers, including the New York Times and Washington Post, calling for support for a United Ireland.
The advertisement urges the US Government to hold Britain “fully accountable to its Good Friday Agreement commitments” and urges the Irish Government to convene a Citizens’ Assembly to plan prepare and advocate for Irish unity.
“The next chapter in Ireland’s history is being written,” it reads. “Together we can be the generation to build a new Ireland.
“The future is in the hands of the people. It is time to agree on a date for the unity referendums.”
Ciara said she found the adverts “a little bit disgusting”.
“I don’t like them trying to use outside influence to force our hand in Irish politics,” she said. “I don’t like that at all.
“I don’t understand why we are appealing outside of this country for people to influence what happens here.
“To me, there is a huge irony in Sinn Féin, which sees itself as a national, 32-county party not believing, when it comes down to it, in self-termination.
“What? We are going over America and asking the lads over there to use their influence to strongarm us into doing something here that they want?
“Like, we are getting someone with a bigger stick or an arbiter from outside this country? To me that is wholly the opposite of self-determination.
“We don’t need America or anyone else telling us how to run this country.
“The fact that Sinn Féin of all parties believes we should use [America’s] influence to force our hands to do something that [I believe] is too soon – I find it a little bit disgusting actually.”
When fellow presenter Shane pointed out that the US played a big role in the Good Friday agreement, Ciara noted that it did do in a neutral capacity.
“This isn’t appealing to neutrality,” she said.
“This is appealing to the nationalist bent of the Irish diaspora in the same way they have previously.”
Shane said he feels there is “a large element of Sinn Fein playing to the gallery” with the adverts, insisting the party is well aware “there isn’t any prospect of a referendum” any time soon.
“I am somebody that would like to see Irish unity happen at some point in the future but I firmly believe the greatest friend of Irish unity is time,” he said.
“If there was a referendum in the next three to five years, I am absolutely convinced it would be lost. It would be like the Scottish referendum; it would be lost.
“Whereas I think if you give time to things; I think if you let these new arrangements - the protocol and so on - bed down, see what happens in Scotland and as the binds of the UK weaken, I think there is a prospect in ten to 15 years’ time.
"Playing to the Gallery"
He said a huge amount of preparatory work would have to be undertaken, noting “you can’t put the cart before the horse here”.
“I think with lots of preparatory work, with time and with unionists coming to see that we are not the devils down here and we wont be impinging on their day to day lives and so on, I think there is a prospect of it happening,” he said.
“But if the referendum happens in three to five years, it will be lost.
“I think holding it now would be a huge strategic error and what’s more. I think Sinn Féin knows that.
“There’s an element of them playing to the gallery here.”
A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “The ad is not ‘run’ by Sinn Féin but is an Irish American initiative by the groups named on the ad’.
As I Remember It
As the 25th Anniversary of the accord approaches, Newstalk’s latest podcast As I Remember It: Bertie Ahern & The Good Friday Agreement looks back at the peace talks through the eyes of the people that were in the room.
The series features exclusive interviews with the likes of Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Senator George J. Mitchell in conversation with Bertie Ahern.
For bonus content including interviews, videos, an interactive timeline of the peace process and a full glossary of the key players head to newstalk.com/goodfridayagreement.
You can hear Episode One here: