The Sinn Féin leader has said the wealth and prosperity generated by a United Ireland would far outweigh the cost.
It comes after the Taoiseach said a border poll would not be on the Government's agenda for the next five years.
Micheál Martin made the comments at the launch of the Shared Island Initiative, which includes €500m in ringfenced funding for joint North/South initiatives over the next five years.
“The government has said that, for the next five years, a border poll is not on our agenda,” he said.
“I’ve also made it clear that my approach is through consensus and listening and engagement.”
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said it is impossible to plan for the future of Ireland without addressing the border poll issue.
“We need to plan,” she said. “We ned to plan public service provision. We need to plan what our economy looks like and listen, there will be no prizes for anybody who stands and faces down the winds of change in this regard.
“The path is clear now; we are heading towards a unity referendum at some stage so we need to prepare.”
She said it is a “really positive thing” that people all over the island are beginning to discuss the idea of unity more broadly.
“All of that dialogue is essential,” she said. “We have to work hard to make sure it is inclusive and dynamic and engaging and interesting. That it engages, for example, lots of young people; that is not just the same old talking heads. It needs to be really democratic and vibrant.”
Is now a good time to be thinking about a united Ireland? Mary Lou McDonald thinks it is but Micheál Martin says it is not on this Government's agenda. pic.twitter.com/J4SMdN2x7B
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) October 23, 2020
She said education, employment, prosperity and opportunity would all be “best served by a United Ireland.”
“As to the cost, there are disputes over the level of subvention that comes into the North but the North is a subvented state so yes, this is going to cost money,” she said.
“What I am saying is that the investment we will make in building a robust universal public health service and so on, island-wide, will be the smartest money that we have ever spent.
“By the way, whereas some people focus on what this will cost, others have done considerable work on the wealth and prosperity that a United Ireland would generate and the opportunity, economically, of Irish unity far outweighs anything that might be cited as the cost.”
She said the ‘accepts and respects’ the fact that there is not a “singular narrative about what happened in our history” across the island of Ireland – but noted that people are generally more concerned about the issues of today, such as healthcare.
“Yes, it is about flags and anthems but you know what, in the first instance, it is not about that stuff,” she said.
“People who talk to me about Irish unity of all persuasions – those who are very much in favour of it, those who need to be convinced of it and those who are against it – the first thing they raise with me is health.
“They say, ‘what is our health service going to look like? What is our hospital network going to look like?
“The NHS by the way in the North has been ravage by Tory austerity but nonetheless it is still a universal model.”
“So, when I say, ‘plan for the future, plan for change,’ I am talking about those things.
“I am talking about decent jobs, I am talking about the educational system, I am talking about prosperity and opportunity – all of which will be best served by a United Ireland.”