It is time for a new type of nationalism. The SDLP’s new vision of Progressive Nationalism will move the ground upon which the constitutional debate on this island rests.
Our aspiration to share political union with the rest of the island is now inextricably linked with our ability to build a shared and successful social and economic framework here in the North. Unity will be achieved through the success of both jurisdictions, not by their failure. We must ensure that our vision for the reunification of this island becomes a demographic of belief, not a demographic of birth.
That means building up the strength and knowledge of our economy, it means giving our young people the dignity and security of a job and it means creating an infrastructure which can support our people. It is in all our interests to make Northern Ireland work.
Ireland’s political re-unification remains the biggest and the best idea around. It needs huge preparation. Big ideas deserve better than being reduced to a numbers game.
We believe that it is now time to set out a political roadmap to unity. That's why we're establishing a Commission for a New Ireland.
It will have two main tasks.
The first task is to conduct a political audit on the current state of North-South affairs, the workings of the North-South institutions, an all Ireland consultation, as well as civic and business co-operation.
The second task will put flesh on the bones of what a reunified Ireland will look like, providing an analysis and recommendations on what kind of institutional structure, what kind of public service and private sector structure and what kind of civic structure a new, united Ireland will comprise.
Scotland’s plan for independence contained 670 pages of work. It scoped out and modelled what a new Scotland would look like. Irish nationalism must match that level of practicality. We must do the same.
The Commission for a New Ireland will attempt to escape from merely talking about unity by actually putting in the hard yards of research which will see it delivered.
Irish Unity is not an idea that we in the SDLP simply commemorate, instead it is something that we continue to aspire to. This Commission will form the basis of our plan to deliver it.