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‘Ill-timed’ – Clare councillors reject call for British Govt to hold United Ireland referendum

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“Ill-timing” has been voiced by Clare councillors as they rejected a proposal to hold a referendum on Irish unity.

In what was the only motion at Monday’s four-hour meeting of Clare County Council not to be passed, Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) failed to secure sufficient support in her bid to put the wheels in motion for a referendum on Irish unity.

Referencing the centenary of the passing by the British Parliament at Westminster of Government of Ireland Act in December 1920, Cllr McGettigan stated that it caused “deep injustices, divisions and conflict”.

Self-determination for the people of Ireland under Article 3.1 of Bunreacht na hÉireann was cited by the Shannon representative to bring about a United Ireland “by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed in both jurisdictions”.

She proposed that Clare County Council call on the British Government to agree to set a date for the Irish Unity referendum and for the Irish Government to work towards this outcome.

Speaking on Monday, Cllr McGettigan admitted that fellow councillors had contacted her to raise their concerns on the motion’s timing. She detailed that Brexit was also a factor that must be remembered in the discussions with it being “hugely damaging for our country with one part being inside in the EU and another not included”. Sinn Féin’s sole representative on the Council said she was not looking for the referendum to be held “tomorrow or next week” but felt the discussion needed to begin.

Cllr Johnny Flynn (FG) requested Cllr McGettigan withdraw the motion. “We are in a volatile time,” he observed and believed individuals in the UK and Northern Ireland may find the timing offensive. He said Clare County Council had “no role” in the referendum as he shared his view that the wording of the motion was “completely inappropriate”. Flynn added, “For us to be trying to influence a foreign body, I think it is badly drafted and is ill-timed, I ask that it be withdrawn”.

Due to Level Five restrictions, Cllr Gerry Flynn (IND) felt the timing of the motion was off. He shared the opinion that a United Ireland would “happen at some stage but maybe not in my lifetime”.

A United Ireland is “inevitable,” Cllr Joe Garrihy (FG) predicted. He flagged, “the manner in which we approach it in these sensitive times is appropriate”. The Lisdoonvarna representative praised Cllr McGettigan for how she articulated her views at the motion which he noted were “slightly different” to the wording of the motion, “the timing and our role in it might be something to reconsider”.

Concluding the discussion, Cllr McGettigan thanked her colleagues for their contribution and said she would reword the proposal if bringing it back before the County Council.

Páraic McMahon is Head of News & Sport with The Clare Echo. The Newmarket-on-Fergus native also writes for national papers including The Irish Examiner, The Irish Independent and The Irish Times along with doing work for RTÉ, Today FM, and A graduate of Mary Immaculate College, Páraic was previously employed by The Clare Herald and Clare FM. If you have a story, tip or some feedback for him then send an email to -

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