Anti-Agreement unionists were accused today of being out to destroy their guaranteed protections should a united Ireland come about.
SDLP leader Mark Durkan, launching the party strategy document on Irish unity, said Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionists determination to smash the Good Friday Agreement would be “an act of historic folly“.
Cautioning anti-Agreement unionist politicians, Mr Durkan stated: “The SDLP does not believe that the Agreement is a one way street. Just as it is there to protect nationalists in a United Kingdom, it must be there to protect unionists in a United Ireland.”
Mr Durkan added: “The DUP are out to smash the Agreement. That would be an act of historic folly.
“To destroy the Agreement would be to destroy unionism’s protections in a United Ireland, as well as their say in the Northern Ireland of today.”
Symbolically, he launched the strategy standing in the middle of the border bridge spanning the River Foyle and linking Strabane in Co Tyrone and Lifford, Co Donegal.
Unionism, he said, had nothing to fear and everything to gain from the SDLP vision of unity.
They would have the same guaranteed place in government and cross-community protections that the agreement offered everyone at present, he said.
And Mr Durkan insisted unionists would have more influence in a united Ireland than they currently do within the UK.
“Instead of being marginalised at Westminster, they – and northern nationalists – would have stronger representation in Dáil Eireann and a guaranteed place in the Irish Cabinet.”
Meanwhile former SDLP leader John Hume, MP, today made his first foray into the election campaign, accusing Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams of preferring to see the DUP pick up a seat in his West Belfast constituency than a member of the SDLP.
During a televised debate between Mr Durkan and Mr Adams, the Sinn Féin leader said he would not ask Sinn Féin voters to give their transfer votes to the SDLP candidate Alex Attwood.
Mr Hume expressed disappointment saying the SDLP was taking the fight to the DUP in key constituencies across Northern Ireland and West Belfast was one of them.
He said Gerry Adams comments about not transferring to an SDLP candidate “can only mean that he would prefer to see a seat in the hands of the totally anti-agreement DUP rather than in the hands of the totally pro-agreement SDLP.
“It confirms reports throughout the North that Sinn Féin canvassers are urging people not to transfer to the SDLP.”
At a time when the SDLP was working to save the Agreement and face down the DUP, he said he was disappointed that Gerry Adams and Sinn Féin would act in such a way.
“It is putting the future of the Good Friday Agreement in jeopardy,” said Mr Hume who was one of the architects of the agreement.