Belfast City Council is to write to the Taoiseach Micheál Martin to urge the creation of a New Ireland Forum and citizen’s assemblies on the constitutional question.
At the recent full meeting of Belfast City Council, Sinn Féin dropped a proposal for a Belfast Citizens Assembly on the issue of Irish Unity, after a related SDLP motion forwarded by Councillor Séamas de Faoite was passed without a vote.
The council agreed to write to the Taoiseach’s office in Dublin “regarding the establishment of a New Ireland Forum for the 21st Century, alongside a series of comprehensive citizens’ assemblies, to examine the practical, social and economic aspects of a New Ireland.”
The SDLP proposal was passed previously at the Climate and City Resilience Committee with ten votes in support - six votes from Sinn Féin, two from the SDLP, one from People Before Profit and one from the Green Party - to seven votes against, five from the DUP, and two from Alliance. No Alliance representatives or unionists spoke to the proposal at committee.
During the full council, where full ratification is required, no further vote on the SDLP proposal was taken, and no one from Alliance or the DUP spoke against it. The PUP’s Billy Hutchinson tried unsuccessfully to block the motion on the grounds it was irrelevant to committee business.
The withheld Sinn Féin motion, forwarded by Ciaran Beattie, stated: ““Without prejudice to the constitutional position of the citizens of Belfast, this Council will establish a citizens’ forum to discuss the possibility of future constitutional change and the planning that will be necessary in advance of any referendum. The citizen's forum should also examine the potential benefits for the City of Belfast that would arise from any new constitutional arrangement.
“This forum will be reflective of the totality and diversity of our society. Provision for a Unity referendum is contained within the Good Friday agreement, and prudent planning must take place in advance of any potential referendum to ensure that citizen’s views are directly represented.
“This council will also write to the Taoiseach to inform him of this exercise in participative democracy by the citizens of Belfast and encourage the Irish Government to establish an all-island citizen’s assembly which also includes the views of Belfast citizens.”