Ivana Bacik tells Keir Starmer time to prepare for Irish unity referendum

Republic’s Labour leader also calls on British prime minister to follow Irish lead and recognise Palestinian statehood

Labour Party leader Ivana Bacik said British-Irish relations had 'undeniably worsened' under Conservative rule in London: Photograph: Dara MacDónaill

Labour leader Ivana Bacik has told the British prime minister that work must begin to prepare for a referendum on Irish unity.

In a letter to Keir Starmer following last week’s UK election result, Ms Bacik outlined several issues that should receive his “urgent attention”. She said that while the Irish and British Labour parties “diverge respectfully” on the constitutional question, “we believe that work must begin to take place now to prepare for a referendum on the reunification of Ireland”.

Writing as the leader of “your sister party in the Party of European Socialists”, she congratulated him on his electoral success but warned that failing to prepare for a referendum “would place at risk the hard-won peace here”, with the issue of the border and the constitutional status of Northern Ireland having “defined politics in the North since the jurisdiction was established”.

She urged him to engage with her party’s position, which calls for the creation of citizens’ assemblies and for the initiation of Green and White paper processes similar to those which developed the Belfast Agreement.

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The Dublin Bay South TD said relations had “undeniably worsened” under Conservative rule in London. “Northern Ireland, in particular, appears to have been treated by the outgoing British government as an inconvenience and an afterthought,” she told Mr Starmer, evidenced in particular in the “contempt shown for Ireland’s peace and history” through the so-called legacy Bill which terminated inquiries into Troubles-era killings.

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Ms Bacik outlined several other issues while criticising Conservative rule as “disastrous”, with “negative consequences impacting severely on Ireland and countries across the world”.

She called on Mr Starmer to follow the lead of the Irish Government and recognise Palestinian statehood and increase funding for the beleaguered civilian population of Gaza.

In the aftermath of a diplomatic spat between the British and Irish governments over the return of asylum seekers who had crossed the land border and sought international protection here, Ms Bacik said that there was a need to vindicate the rights of these people while protecting the open border.

She said the Rwanda Bill, which seeks to relocate some migrants seeking asylum in Britain to the African country during their processing period, “must be repealed without delay” and that the approach to those arriving seeking protection “must recognise their humanity and respect that fundamental human right to seek asylum”.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times