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The party’s leader Mary Lou McDonald accused the Prime Minister of forfeiting credibility with his plan to unpick key parts of the EU divorce treaty with the Internal Market Bill, and warned he cannot be trusted when he says he still wants a trade deal with the continental trading bloc. She used a phrase in relation to international relations diplomacy to refer to alleged acts of diplomatic sleights, duplicity, treachery and hence infidelity by monarchs or Governments of the UK in their pursuit of self-interest. Ms McDonald said: “He’s the Prime Minister and perfidious Albion just got perfidiouser, if there’s such a word.”
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The Sinn Fein leader warned if the UK does not “honour a bargain fairly struck”, it would face a huge backlash from Ireland’s allies throughout both the EU and US.
There remains a risk congressional leaders in Washington could strike a major blow into Downing Street’s hopes of a lucrative trade deal with the US following Brexit.
She also told the Guardian: “If there is damage in Ireland, if there’s a hardening of the border – well, then all bets are off.”
Sinn Fein is quickly growing in popularity, having caused a major shock in the Irish general election earlier this year.
The election was an unprecedented three-way race between the three largest parties in Ireland – Leo Varadkar’s Fine Gael, Micheal Martin’s Fianna Fail, and Sinn Fein.
Fianna Fáil finished with 38 seats, Sinn Féin made significant gains and won 37 seats – the party’s best result since it took its current form in 1970 – while ruling party Fine Gael finished third with 35 seats.
Mr Martin and Mr Varadkar had long ruled-out forming a coalition Government with Sinn Fein, leaving Ms McDonald and her party on the sidelines.
But a Government led by Sinn Fein would dramatically shake-up the relationship between Britain and Ireland.
The party has previously been linked to the IRA during the Troubles but Sinn Fein has denied these associations saying they a “totally separate organisation” and has quickly transformed itself into a mainstream, left-wing group that is now appealing to voters in the Republic for its policies on everyday issues such as health and housing.
However, Ms McDonald stressed Sinn Fein remains committed to uniting Ireland.
When asked about the possibility of this happening, she replied: “In my lifetime? Absolutely. All of the signposts, all of the markers, point in the direction of reunification,” she said.
Over the coming months, Catholics are expected to outnumber Protestants for the first time, which would mark a significant demographic shift at a time when Brexit is prompting several unionists to question the region’s position in the UK.
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Ms McDonald, who succeeded Gerry Adams as Sinn Fein leader in 2018, said: “The electoral majority for unionism is now gone, politics on this island has changed in ways that are profound.”
But in the recent general election, the party’s overall vote in Northern Ireland plummeted by 6.7 percentage points, while opinion polls point towards the country remaining in the UK.
The Sinn Fein leader insists the promise of a new, progressive, inclusive Ireland, along with an NHS-style health service, would win over enough voters to swing the historic move.
The Good Friday Agreement states the Northern Ireland secretary in the UK must call a referendum when it appears likely that most people would vote in favour of a united Ireland.
Ms McDonald insisted a united Ireland must offer unionists “the kinds of protections and assurances that they need”.
This could include a possible continued role for the Stormont assembly, but the Sinn Fein leader did rule out moving the capital from Dublin.
She warned: “I wouldn’t like anybody in the British system to imagine that they hold a trump card that says ‘we will forever avoid or defer a referendum in Ireland’.
“They don’t have that right.”
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