Ireland’s potential will never be realised while we are divided, according to former President Mary McAleese.
Ms McAleese said she believes there will be a border poll on Irish unification; however, she said the Government’s decision not to push for it in the coming years is “a very good idea.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, she said the people on both sides of the border need time to discuss what any referendum would look like and what a reconciled Ireland would look like.
“I believe firmly that the full potential of this island will not be realised while we are divided,” she said.
“I think we will have a wonderful future when we overcome partition and partitionist mentalities and all the things that have resulted, in a way, from partition – but also, of course from a sectarian history that long predates partition.
“So we have a lot of work to do to create that fully reconciled Ireland and I think when Ireland is fully reconciled – however it is reconciled, whatever shape that takes, I think we will see the full potential as people work together with each other rather than against one another.”
Here's the Story
Ms McAleese was speaking upon the release of her new memoir, ‘Here’s the Story’ – which examines a truly inspirational life and political career.
She said the book sets out the theme of her presidency which was about building bridges across Ireland’s political and historical divide.
“I don’t think it was all that well known the background that I came from,” she said.
“What life had been like in Northern Ireland and why I had chosen, from a very early age, the path of reconciliation and literally building bridges across all those divides of history that had turned neighbours, really, into enemies.”
She said she was always aware that there were those who did not agree with her decision to reach out to Loyalist politicians as President of Ireland.
“I was conscious of it and I was saying, ‘I am getting on with it,’” she said.
“When you can see a way of navigating through the mess and perhaps it is not always evident to people, particularly those who don’t understand the situation well, then I think you have a duty to try and navigate through that to what Séamus Heaney used to call the farther shore.
“To try and get there and hope that, at the end of the day, you are validated and vindicated by getting there.”
She said the Good Friday Agreement ensured the ambition for a United Ireland would be recognised by all sides – with a clear mechanism in place to achieve it.
“Do I think there will be a referendum?” she asked. “I don’t know how long I am going to live but I think there will be a referendum.
“We have heard from the Government that they are not going to push it for the next five years and I think that is a very good idea.
“It gives people time to breathe and to discuss what a referendum would look like and in particular what a reconciled Ireland would look like.
“I think we do have a lot of work to do in that regard, to scope that out, to map it out but will that referendum happen? My own view is that, at some stage, absolutely it will.
“The demographics are moving in that direction. There will, ironically in the year Stormont was created 100 years ago, there will be probably a Catholic voting majority.
“Whether that translates of course into support for United Ireland is quite another matter.
“But the impact of Brexit will also be felt. It has created a constituency of people who are probably Unionist and indeed Nationalist who would prefer to be in the European Union.”
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Main image credit: Linda Brownlee