[Sinn Fein]

15th August 2002

Partitionist politics served interests of no section of society

Sinn Fein Chairperson Mitchel Mc Laughlin will deliver the annual Gasyard Féile Lecture tonight (Thursday) in the Pilots Row Community Centre at 7.30 pm.

The theme of the Lecture is `Towards 2016 - A United Ireland' in which Mr Mc Laughlin will claim that Partitionist politics served the interests of no section of society here.

Speaking about the effects of partitionist politics Mr. McLaughlin said: `` It is ironic that the system and political conditions against which nationalists rebelled and which unionism was determined to retain, served no section of society in the North. It failed nationalists in that it treated them as second-class citizens and sought to perpetuate a sectarian state. It also failed unionists because it reserved all power and administration in unionist hands leaving them ill prepared for inevitable change.

Some of the most ill served by the apartheid style government administered here since the inception of the state was the unionist working class. The segregation in housing ensured that few in the unionist working class ever got to realise that in reality, their living conditions were no better than nationalists, in fact in some instances it was inferior. By the time that it was realised that the traditional industrial base, that provided employment for the unionist working class, was in terminal decline an entire generation of unionists was left with no job prospects and no education.

In contrast, nationalists encouraged their children to take advantage of educational opportunities. As a community we developed a confidence and a determination. We demanded equality in all aspects and let it be known that we would accept nothing less.''

On the Peace Process Mr Mc Laughlin said:

Republicans and nationalists convinced that only an inclusive approach could succeed in a conflict resolution process, continued in our efforts to establish common ground on which we could approach the British government. This was the basis on which the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated. I believe that the Agreement now gives us the opportunity to redress the mistakes of the past together and build a new democracy based on the needs and requirements of all the people of Ireland.

The Good Friday Agreement can be used as the foundation on which to construct the New Ireland of equals that we wish to see. It is recognised - yes - even by many unionists that the outworking of the Good Friday Agreement will lead to the reunification of Ireland. That being the case it is incumbent on all of us to prepare for the eventuality of Irish reunion. This particularly applies to the two governments. It is therefore, incumbent on the two governments to have in place plans and mechanisms to ensure the smooth transfer of sovereignty when the time arrives.

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