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Colm Meaney says ‘Mary Lou McDonald can win support of unionists’ ahead of united Ireland event

Actor speaks of his support for Sinn Féin ahead of Ireland’s Future public meeting in 3Arena

Advocate: The actor is campaigning for a poll on a united Ireland. Photo: RTÉ

Ellen CoyneIndependent.ie

Young people are “flocking” to Sinn Féin because Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael governments have not worked, Colm Meaney has said.

The actor said young people “aren’t afraid” of a Sinn Féin government, and he believes party leader Mary Lou McDonald would be able to win the support of unionists in a united Ireland.

Meaney was speaking exclusively to the Irish Independent ahead of one of the biggest ever public meetings planning for a united Ireland.

Ireland’s Future, a non-profit group that advocates for a Border poll, has organised the “Together We Can” event in the 3Arena today.

As well as Meaney, the event will include singer Denise Chaila, actor James Nesbitt, musician Donal Lunny and politicians Ms McDonald, Leo Varadkar, Jim O’Callaghan, Colum Eastwood and others.

Meaney said he “agreed immediately” to be part of the event because he feels it is time to have a debate about reunification.

The Star Trekactor, who has been a republican all his life, said he would like to see Ms McDonald as Taoiseach.

“I would certainly like to see a Sinn Féin government. I think their policies generally, not just in relation to a united Ireland, are a lot more progressive than either Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael,” he said.

“Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have been in power for the entire existence of the State.

“They have had more than ample opportunity to put into practice their policies. They haven’t worked, either economically or in terms of the issue of the Border.

“It’s time for change, and young people are aware of that. Young people aren’t afraid of that.”

He said he understood some might question if unionists would feel “less threatened” by a Fianna Fáil or Fine Gael government leading a Border poll, but he “would hope that the debate could resolve that”.

Asked if that meant he believed unionists could agree to reunification under Ms McDonald as Taoiseach, he said: “Absolutely. I would hope that it wouldn’t just be an emotional kind of traditional attachment to red, white, blue.

“It would be more of a pragmatic approach that they would take. And in that situation, they are convincible.”

Meaney said he first became interested in Sinn Féin after republicans agreed to a ceasefire.

He questioned those who criticised the party by bringing up its past.

“The Provisional IRA was created by the policies of the British and Northern Irish governments,” he said.

“Without Bloody Sunday, the Provos probably would not have existed. People forget that the Troubles started with peaceful protests.”

He argued that the civil rights movement in the North had been based on the work of civil rights campaigners in the US such as Dr Martin Luther King.

“They were beaten off the streets in Northern Ireland, you know? So what alternative did they have?” Meaney said.

He added that it was “a fact” communities in Derry were under attack.

“We had refugees streaming across the Border, remember. They weren’t running from the Provisional IRA. They were running from the RUC and the British Army.”

Meaney played the late Martin McGuinness in the 2017 film The Journey, which dramatised the unlikely alliance formed between the late deputy first minister and Ian Paisley ahead of the St Andrews Agreement.

Meaney also backed McGuinness in his 2011 bid for the Áras.

Ireland’s Future is not a political party, and is not affiliated with any.

The Alliance party rejected an invitation to today’s event, claiming it was a “rally to endorse a United Ireland”.

Ivana Bacik, the Labour Party leader, will use her speech at today’s event to call for an All-Island citizens’ assembly or assemblies, approved by Stormont as well as the Oireachtas, to work toward a unitary state.

However, it will have to be founded on fairness and equality for all people on the island.

Today’s event runs from 1pm to 4pm at the 3Arena. Tickets are available at the door for €10.

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