THOUSANDS of republicans are expected to descend on Strabane and Lifford this weekend for the first ever March for Irish Unity event.
Billed as a peaceful, anti-sectarian, grassroots gathering with a view to mobilising collective voices for a new and united Ireland, March for Unity will take place between the two towns on Sunday, November 24 and has the backing of a range of republican groupings including Sinn Féin and the IRSP.
At the time of going to press, the SDLP declined to say if they would take part.
One of the organisers and spokesperson for the IRSP and YES For Unity group, Michael McLaughlin said, “Irish Unity belongs to all the people, it is not an imaginary aspiration but real economic necessity. We are not in this united Ireland process on some romantic notion.
“We understand that to make people’s lives better we need a transformation process on the entire island, the debate around a united Ireland is part of that process of change.”
Sinn Féin’s Brian McMahon, who was instrumental in organising the march, urged support for the event.
“People are increasingly realising that the social and economic interests of the people of the north do not even register at Westminster,” he said. “Ten years of crippling austerity and the shambles of Brexit have brought this reality home to people like never before.
“This realisation has driven the increasing demand for Scottish Independence and is the reason why, for an ever-growing number of people here, the proposition of Irish Unity is becoming a more viable and attractive proposition.
“Do we want our futures and those of our children to be forever more at the mercy of this English Parliament? I believe that we all deserve better and believe that this better future lies in Irish unity where we will have, at last, a meaningful say over our own destiny on this island.”
According to Strabane independent councillor, Paul Gallagher, an important thing to remember ahead of Sunday’s march is that it is a “non-party political” event.
“Everyone is welcome to attend,” he explained. “But an important thing to say is that no-one will be marching with political banners. This is to be a family-friendly, non-party political march.
“With so many republicans coming together for this, it’s setting a precedent that we haven’t seen in years.”
• March for Irish Unity will take place on Sunday beginning at 1pm at the Diamond in Lifford before marching into Abercorn Square in Strabane.