Labour chair: Unionists must be guaranteed Cabinet seats in united Ireland 

In May Day address, Jack O'Connor will say it is essential that quality-of-life issues are not diverted by 'competing nationalisms'
Labour chair: Unionists must be guaranteed Cabinet seats in united Ireland 

Jack O'Connor will say: 'I believe that a new constitution should specify a significant minimum requirement in terms of the number of ‘Unionist’ ministers and the proportion of cabinet seats they would occupy, so as to avoid any suggestion of tokenism." Picture: Jim Coughlan

There must be a guarantee of Cabinet seats for Northern unionists in a unified Ireland government, Labour Party chairman Jack O’Connor will say today.

In a May Day address to the party’s union membership, Mr O’Connor, a former boss of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions is calling for a guarantee of a significant number of unionist ministers in all governments in a future "shared Ireland" in the event of unification.

In his speech, seen by the Irish Examiner, Mr O’Connor will also argue for the retention of the devolved authority in the North, with provision for "an opposition", but with cabinet posts distributed on a "strictly 50:50 basis" in a cross-community administration.

O'Connor backs FF TD on a new constitution

Pointing to a recent speech by Fianna Fáil TD Jim O’Callaghan on the need for a new constitution, and for unionist ministries in the event of unification, Mr O’Connor will say he “strongly supports” these propositions.

“Most significantly, he proposes that it would specify a requirement for ‘Unionist’ ministers in all governments post-unification. He also advocates the retention of the arrangements acknowledging both UK and Irish Citizenship which currently apply, as well as a strengthened ‘East-West’ dimension. I strongly support this,” he will say: 

Moreover, I believe that a new constitution should specify a significant minimum requirement in terms of the number of unionist ministers and the proportion of cabinet seats they would occupy, so as to avoid any suggestion of tokenism.

These provisions should be underpinned by a requirement for majorities in both communities in the entire island, in any referendum to amend them, Mr O’Connor will argue.

It is essential that concerns which determine real quality of life are not diverted into symbolically important and highly emotional confrontation around anthems, flags, and emblems between the competing nationalisms, so that they can be slickly parcelled off in aspirational phraseology by skilful constitutional wordsmiths.

“However, our task is to assert the centrality of the issues which determine the quality of life of all the people of this island. So today, on International Workers' Day, I urge you to reach out to trade unionists north and south and to others on the left, to promote the idea of a common platform to this end, eschewing any semblance of sectarian majoritarianism,” he will say.

The proposition of such a platform must entail a complete break with the past, outlining a formula for sharing our island on the basis of the principle of absolute and complete parity of esteem, Mr O’Connor will say.

He will suggest that these principles could be endorsed by the people of the Republic in a plebiscite in advance of any border poll.

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