Monthly Archives: August 2018

‘No Stone Unturned’ Arrests Must Be Condemned And Resisted

The full background to the PSNI’s pursuit of television journalists Trevor Birney and Barry McCaffrey, using a proxy, in the form of the Durham police force, to arrest the men, has yet to be revealed.

But on its face, it seems the authorities are attempting to characterise as ‘theft’ the journalists’ acquisition of documents from the Police Ombudsman’s office in Belfast dealing with the 1994 Loughinisland massacre.

The television documentary on the Loughinisland killings that they produced,  ‘No Stone Unturned‘ – with Alex Gibney as director – was a masterpiece of investigative journalism which revealed a disturbing level of official participation in the cover-up cum incompetent police investigation of the UVF killing of six Catholics watching the World Cup in their local bar.

The documentary highlighted a shocking level of collusion between the local RUC and the killers which went undiscovered in the subsequent investigations, one of which was led by the Police Ombudsman’s office, then headed by different management.

Journalists come across documents all the time, including documents from government offices. Sometimes the leaks are authorised, just as often they are not. But I cannot recall an instance of a leak being described as ‘theft’.

The PSNI/Durham police portrayal of the documentary makers’ acquisition of Police Ombudsman documents as larceny means that Birney and McCaffrey could now be charged with theft, or at the least with receiving stolen goods?

Meanwhile the PSNI’s failure to pursue those in uniform who covered up the slaughter – as well as the killers and their accomplices – stands in stark contrast to this belligerent pursuit of the two film-makers.

This is a development that must be resisted by all journalists in Ireland, no matter what medium they work in. To charge or pursue the makers of ‘No Stone Unturned‘ for doing their jobs represents an unprecedented existential threat to Irish journalism in all its forms.

The truth of what happened in Loughinisland in 1994 took more than two decades to emerge. That it did so was due to the ability of the film-makers to persuade those with knowledge to share it with their viewers and the courage of their sources to reveal what they knew.

That they did so was a tribute not just to their reporting skills but to the bravery of their sources.

Make no mistake, this move by the PSNI is directed not just at journalists but also at their sources, perhaps especially their sources.

There are other Loughinislands yet to be uncovered, some the responsibility of the state, others committed by their enemies.

If journalists are to face the threat of prosecution for acquiring documents which those in power would prefer to keep hidden, then the truth will never be told about Northern Ireland’s tragic past. Instead anger and resentment will fuel the fires of bitterness and rancor.

The track record of Irish journalism in resisting official censorship – and its close cousin, self-censorship – is not, sadly, a good one. This is one test, however, that cannot and must not be flunked.

This pithy review of ‘No Stone Unturned’, from The Guardian, tells you all you need to know about why the PSNI have moved against the film-makers:

No Stone Unturned review – a scrupulous documentary | Film

Wendy Ide

Alex Gibney does a thorough job of investigating an unsolved murder in 90s Northern Ireland

Aftermath of murder: a scene from the ‘forensic’ No Stone Unturned.
Aftermath of murder: a scene from the ‘forensic’ No Stone Unturned.

Prolific documentarian Alex Gibney turns his lens on to Northern Ireland, with a typically forensic examination of an unsolved mass murder. The six victims of the 1994 Loughinisland massacre were watching the World Cup in their local pub when a masked gunman burst in and sprayed bullets from a Czech-made automatic weapon. But despite the fact that, as Gibney’s research reveals, the police had a clear idea of suspects from the outset, and despite the fact that a getaway vehicle, a gun and a bag full of balaclavas was found, nobody was ever charged. What’s more, much of the evidence was later mislaid or destroyed. Scrupulously even-handed, the film explores collusion between police and paramilitaries and the decidedly unstable foundations underpinning the Northern Ireland peace process.

‘I, Dolours’ – Updated List Of Cinema Screenings, North & South

  1. Light House, Dublin
  2. Pálás, Galway
  3. IMC Dun Laoghaire
  4. IMC Tallaght
  5. IFI, Dublin
  6. Omniplex Cork
  7. QFT, Belfast
  8. Movie House Yorkgate, Belfast
  9. Movie House Dublin Road, Belfast
  10. Omniplex Downpatrick
  11. Omniplex Derry
  12. Omniplex Newry
  13. Omniplex Dungannon
  14. Omniplex Kennedy Centre, Belfast
  15. Brunswick Cinebowel, Derry
  16. Omniplex Dundalk
  17. Omniplex Limerick

Convulsions At KRW Law Firm……

UPDATE: I am told the numbers 6 and 200,000 figure prominently in this affair.

A little birdie tells me that things are not well at Belfast’s largest criminal law practice, KRW, headed by veteran advocate Kevin Winters.

According to one source, a senior figure left the firm on Friday when it was discovered that several lawyers were planning to jump ship to form a rival company.

And last week it emerged that the putative rivals were making efforts to persuade some longstanding clients to follow suit.

KRW, which began as Kevin R Winters in 2001 and then was incorporated as KRW Law in 2012, has overtaken Madden & Finucane as the largest criminal practice in the North. Earlier this year the company announced plans to expand in Dublin and London.

Prominent clients have included the family of the missing child Madelaine McCann and the convicted Lockerbie bomber, the late Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi. KRW’s core business though remains in NI where the firm is the leading light in the lucrative Troubles legacy field.

It is too early to predict the outcome of the crisis now afflicting KRW but there is agreement that much will depend on the attitude of Sinn Fein, which wields tremendous influence in Belfast these days on clients’ choice of legal representatives.

A clue perhaps about the rebels’ ambitions, if not the Shinners’ intentions, may lie in the putative name for the new law firm: Phoenix Law.


The MRF File – Part One: What’s In A Name?

By James Kinchin-White and Ed Moloney

I first met James Kinchin-White in early 2010 when a contact in Belfast suggested he would make a good interviewee for the film I was then helping to make in Dublin, ‘Voices From The Grave’, based on the book of the same name, which in turn was based on the Boston College oral history interviews with IRA leader Brendan Hughes and UVF leader David Ervine.

James had been a serving soldier with the Royal Green Jackets in the lower Falls area in 1972 and when on patrol one day he briefly had Brendan Hughes in his gun sights. Hughes was peering around a street corner, taking the odd pot shot at troops with a revolver and James was just about to pull his trigger when an old lady got in his way. When he looked again Hughes had disappeared. Thus does fate weave its strange fabric.

We flew him over from Scotland and he gave a great interview.

Brendan Hughes’ brush with death happened a long time ago and to say that James now views his military service through more jaundiced eyes might be a bit of an understatement. To compensate, I suspect, for those days he decided he would devote himself to an exploration of the shelves of the British government’s archives at Kew in a bid to dig out the secrets of a conflict which had marked him, as it has everyone else it has touched.

When I heard of this plan I asked JKW, as I call him, if he would keep a special eye out for anything which might be helpful in our fight against the British and American governments’ effort to confiscate the oral history archive at Boston College. He agreed and thus was born a wonderfully fruitful if lop-sided relationship.

Lop-sided in the sense that he does all the hard work at Kew while I get to sit back and read and write about what he has found.

This article marks the beginning of an especially important, indeed unique piece of research carried out by James into the history, origin and activities of the MRF in Northern Ireland in the early months and years of the Troubles. Over the next week or two, with James in the driving seat, will publish a series of important, revelatory articles about this key feature of the early Troubles.

The MRF was, it is believed, created by General Sir Frank Kitson to counter, in particular, the  two IRA’s (Official and Provisional) who were intensifying their violence in the opening years of the 1970’s. The MRF was, it is believed, loosely based on the counter gangs Kitson had created in Kenya to oppose the Mau-Mau during their uprising against British colonial rule in the 1950’s.

Brigadier Frank Kitson

By the early 1960’s Kitson’s experiences in Kenya, and later Malaya, were receiving international recognition. He was regarded as one of the leading lights in COIN, or counter-insurgency strategy and in 1962, as US involvement in Vietnam was ratcheting up, he was invited by the Rand Corporation, along with his French counterpart, David Galula – an inspiration for the movie Battle of Algiers –  to address a high level conference in Washington DC on tactics and strategy in post-colonial conflicts.

Kitson’s contribution dealt, inter alia, with Kenya and included: Turning a Mau Mau into a Counterrebel: The Carrot-and-Stick Approach; Trickery and Deception (the “Pseudogang”). It is not difficult to see in this approach the seeds of the MRF which specialised in recruiting IRA double agents known as ‘Freds’.

His two books, based on his experiences in Kenya and later Malaya -‘Gangs and Counter Gangs‘ and ‘Low Intensity Operations’ – also describe the military philosophy which inspired the MRF.

In June 1970, Kitson was promoted to Brigadier and in September that year was made commander of the British Army’s 39 Brigade, which covered Belfast at a time when the city was rapidly becoming the cockpit of the IRA’s war against the British. Kitson arrived in the city after the Falls curfew at a time when the IRA was intensifying its commercial bombing campaign in the city and beginning to expand in rural areas. He stayed until the end of April 1972, a few weeks before the first Provisional IRA ceasefire.

It was during these months that Kitson is thought to have developed and deployed the MRF concept.

JKW has unearthed a rich seam of new information about Kitson’s creation, its real name, its origins and structure, possible relationship with Loyalist paramilitaries and its violent history during the early stages of a violent convulsion that would last some three decades. In doing so he has made an important contribution to the history and understanding of this consequential chapter in the story of the Troubles.

What follows is the first article in the MRF File gathered by JKW. Enjoy.

♦                                 ♦                                    ♦                                 ♦                                ♦

In May 1973, a British official in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall by the name of F M K Tuck, composed a memo about the activities of the MRF to his civil service colleagues in which he wrote the following:

As far as the general policy of making official comment on intelligence gathering and plain clothes operations is concerned, there seems to be considerable advantage in maintaining as much confusion as possible. There can be no useful purpose served for instance in defining the correct expansion of the initials MRF.

(You can read the full memo here)

And so was begun, or at least confirmed, a British policy of disinformation about the name of  one of its most controversial undercover military units to see service on the streets of Northern Ireland.

Down the years the initials MRF have been taken to mean variously ‘Military Reaction Force’, ‘Mobile Reconnaissance Force’ and ‘Military Reconnaissance Force’ by reporters and experts.

Eventually, on March 15th, 1994 came apparent confirmation of the true meaning of those mysterious initials. In a written parliamentary answer to a question tabled by the British Labour MP, Chris Mullin, this explanation was offered:

The Military Reaction Force was a small military unit which during the period 1971 to 1973, was responsible for carrying out essential surveillance tasks in Northern Ireland in those circumstances where soldiers in uniform and with Army vehicles would be too easily recognised.

And so the matter seemed settled. MRF stood for Military Reaction Force. That was the explanation given, for example, in the book Voices From The Grave.

Except that was lie. As was the claim that the MRF was involved exclusively in ‘essential surveillance tasks’; the MRF shot people and occasionally killed them as will be seen in other documents to be published on this site.

Evidence that at least the ‘Military Reaction Force’ claim was a lie comes in a ‘loose minute’ (jargon for an internal letter) prepared in the aftermath of a visit to Northern Ireland by one the British Army’s most senior officers, the Director of Army Strategic Defence (DDASD) , dated February 1972 and written by Colonel James Glover, then a senior member of staff at Army Strategic Defence.

The document was Glover’s effort to answer questions raised by his boss during his visit to Northern Ireland in Early February 1972.

Students of the Troubles will recognise his name. As Brigadier James Glover – and one of the British Army’s foremost experts on the IRA – he was the author of a controversial 1979 assessment of the organisation titled ‘Future Terrorist Trends‘, which predicted that the IRA had the ‘sinews of war’ to continue its campaign more or less indefinitely.

He later commented in a BBC television interview that in the context of his assessment of the IRA, “Gerry Adams was a man with whom we can do business'”.

The final sentence in his ‘loose minute’ reveals the real meaning of the initials MRF:

10. Mobile Reaction Force (para 21). Three sergeants with SAS experience have been nominated as section commanders on 1 year tours.

The document also suggests that the MRF derived the title ‘Mobile’ from its dependence on cars, in the MRF’s case second-hand cars, presumably because they were harder to trace. So it is not difficult to see where the term ‘Mobile’ came from; less obvious is why it was necessary or profitable to keep this a secret for quite so long.

But at least we now know. MRF stands for Mobile Reaction Force.

One more point of interest. It is clear from the document that the MRF’s Four Square Laundry operation, which you can read about here, had not been initiated by February 1972. By October that year the IRA, thanks to information provided by informers Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee, knew enough about the operation to ambush the MRF soldiers operating the bogus laundry van in West Belfast.

Where To Watch ‘I, Dolours’….

‘I, Dolours’ goes on general release in Ireland the weekend of Friday, August 31st. These are the cinemas and locations where it will be screened:

  1. Light House, Dublin
  2. Pálás, Galway
  3. IMC Dun Laoghaire
  4. IMC Tallaght
  5. IFI, Dublin
  6. Omniplex Cork
  7. QFT, Belfast
  8. Movie House Yorkgate, Belfast
  9. Movie House Dublin Road, Belfast
  10. Omniplex Downpatrick
  11. Omniplex Derry
  12. Omniplex Newry
  13. Omniplex Dungannon
  14. Omniplex Kennedy Centre

Trump’s America (cont’d)

By Maud Doyle

August 21, 2018

Former director of communications for the White House Office of Public Liaison, adjunct professor at Howard University, and ordained Baptist minister Omarosa Manigault Newman published Unhinged, her memoir about her time as a reality-TV star and Trump Administration employee. In it, she writes that US president Donald Trump is “just on this side of functionally literate,” that he discussed being sworn in on The Art of the Deal and selling “commemorative copies,” and that he liked appointing generals to White House positions because it made him look “badass.” She alleges that Trump, who has publicly described secretary of education Betsy DeVos as “a brilliant and passionate education advocate,” privately nicknamed her “Ditzy DeVos” and promised to “get rid of her”; referred to “truly great” and “world-class legal mind” attorney general Jeff Sessions as “Benjamin Button” behind his back; alluded to ex-White House press secretary and “wonderful person” Sean Spicer as “Mr. Men’s Wearhouse”; said son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was “a little sweet,” his personal euphemism for homosexual; called Kellyanne Conway’s husband George the racial slurs “FLIP” and “Goo-goo” during a meeting; deemed his son Donald Trump Jr. “a fuck up”; and labeled the prime minister of Montenegro as a “whiny punk bitch” after shoving him out of the way during a NATO summit group photo. Manigault Newman, who denies reports that she was dragged from the White House by the Secret Service while screaming after being fired by White House chief of staff John Kelly, claims that she was terminated because of her knowledge of a tape recorded on the set of The Apprentice in which Trump uses the N-word.

In Georgia, state senator Michael Williams said that if Trump had been recorded using the N-word, it “would matter as an individual” but not “as the person who is running our country”; elections consultant Michael Malone, who has proposed a plan to “consolidate” seven of nine voting precincts in Randolph County, which is 60 percent black, has dismissed concerns of voter suppression as “gibberish”; and Josh Etheridge, police chief of Chatsworth, defended the use of a taser on an 87-year-old Syrian refugee when she was cutting dandelions near her home as “the lowest use of force” available to the three officers present to “stop that threat.” The Republican nominee for US Senate in Virginia posted a photoshopped picture of his Democratic opponent, Tim Kaine, greeting Joseph Stalin. US secretary of the interior Ryan Zinke, who has been investigated for violating the Hatch Act after tweeting a photo of himself wearing “Make America Great Again” socks, wore Ronald Reagan socks while touring the Carr fire sites in Northern California, and said that the wildfires were started by “environmental terrorist groups.” “He loves fun socks,” said Alex Hinson, his deputy press secretary. Rudolph Giuliani, the former mayor of New York City and currently one of Trump’s personal lawyers, explained that he does not want his client to talk to special counsel Robert Mueller because “truth isn’t truth.”

Scientists in France and Switzerland published a study that demonstrates a connection between the “teleological thinking” of creationists and conspiracy theorists. “We think the message that conspiracism is a type of creationism that deals with the social world can help clarify some of the most baffling features of our so-called ‘post-truth era,'” said Dr. Sebastian Dieguez, who led the research. DNA research revealed that penguins do not mate for life, an Italian woman who reportedly wore a “decoy latex belly” in order to fake a pregnancy returned the mixed-race surrogate baby she had bought from a Romanian mother for 20,000 euros, and the 11-year-old bride of a Malaysian man was returned to her native Thailand. In New Zealand, an avocado shortage has sparked large-scale thefts. “It’s an easy way to make a quick buck, but I don’t think we are dealing with a sophisticated or highly organized operation here,” said Jen Scoular, CEO of New Zealand Avocado.

‘Disappeared’ Victims Wright & McKee Were ‘Turned Terrorists’ Said British Army

By Ed Moloney and James Kinchin-White

Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee were members of  ‘D’ Company in the IRA’s Second Belfast Battalion and both were sentenced to death, apparently in their absence and possibly at secret courts martial, in late 1972/early 1973, after they admitted working for a secret British military undercover unit known as the MRF, the precise meaning of which initials is still a debating point many years later.

The evidence that their juridical experience at the hands of the IRA was most likely clandestine is that they both went on the journey to their deaths believing that they had been given immunity in return for coming clean about their treachery. When they were ferried across the Border to their deaths by Unknowns’ member Dolours Price, they believed they were going for some R&R.

The MRF, established by British Army Belfast commander General Frank Kitson, was an elite military unit active in the early 1970’s which also recruited paramilitary ‘Freds’ as informers cum accomplices used primarily for spotting and identifying colleagues.

The initials MRF were explained in a House of Commons exchange as meaning ‘Military Reaction Force’ but as one of the letters below explains, there was a reluctance to spell out the real meaning amongs its commanders and it might be prudent to treat that parliamentary explanation with caution.

Kevin McKee

The MRF is also believed to have patrolled Belfast in civilian vehicles on the hunt for well known paramilitary figures to assassinate. Brendan Hughes describes how he narrowly escaped death in a frantic chase from suspected MRF gunmen in the lower Falls area of Belfast.

Once McKee and Wright had confessed they were dispatched across the Border to be killed, although the plan did not go according to schedule.

The local IRA unit into whose hands they had been delivered apparently grew to like the pair and socialised with them – McKee was apparently a good cook which further endeared the two men to their captors – and could not bring themselves to do the deed. So eventually a gunman from Belfast was sent for, they were shot dead and their bodies hidden in secret graves.

Their bodies were eventually found some 43 years later in a bog in Co Meath.

The late IRA leader and hunger striker, Brendan Hughes was intimately involved in the intelligence operation which uncovered Wright and McKee and which also led to the Four Square Laundry spying operation, which was hailed by Republicans as a major blow against British intelligence and a personal triumph for then Belfast commander Gerry Adams.

Seamus Wright

Hughes was angry and disappointed when he heard about the deaths of Wright and McKee. He had given both men a guarantee that they would not be harmed if they came clean about their experience with the MRF, which apparently they had.

This what he had to say in his Boston College archive interview with Anthony McIntyre:

You have to understand that McKee and Wright believed they had been given immunity and [afterwards] they were taken away across the border where they were held for weeks and weeks. The order was given for them to be put down. I didn’t give the order and I felt betrayed … There was no purpose in killing them; it was pure revenge … I don’t know who gave the order for them to be executed … I can’t say for sure who took the decision. I know they were supposed to be dead and weeks later we found out they were not dead and the order was reinforced. Apparently the people who were holding them, now this is hearsay on my behalf … the people who were holding them liked them and couldn’t kill them and so people were sent from Belfast to do the actual execution. Seamy Wright’s sister was a very prominent Republican and the sad thing about it is that for years I knew the two of them were dead but I couldn’t tell anybody. I was in prison in Long Kesh when Eileen came to visit me; her sister was Seamy Wright’s wife. They hadn’t been told a thing so I took it upon myself to tell Eileen that Seamy was dead. The same thing with the McKee family.

Gerry Adams and Brendan Hughes pictured in Long Kesh

Documentary evidence that Kevin McKee was an informer has already emerged in the form of an entry in a so-called ‘watchkeeper’s log’ kept by the Kings Own Scottish Borderers regiment in February 1972. It records a raid on an IRA arms dump facilitated by intelligence provided by McKee. You can read about that here and here.

The two letters reproduced below, one a Ministry of Defence minute prepared on May 23rd, 1973 for the trial of an MRF member Sgt Clive Williams for the murder of Patrick McVeigh; the other a response to that minute written eight days later both have Seamus Wright and Kevin McKee as IRA informers, or as the first document calls them ‘turned terrorists’.

What we still don’t know is why they were ‘disappeared’ rather than killed publicly as informers normally were in a bid to deter others from following their example. That they were informers seems now to be beyond doubt.

More Fallout From Boston Archive Raid: No Truth Telling Allowed Here!

Watch Henry McDonald’s interview below about how the PSNI’s move against the Boston College archive in 2011 sabotaged a similar project he was organising dealing with various security forces’ handling of paramilitary informers and then read what I had to say about the consequences of the PSNI’s move to kill off the Boston initiative. Interesting, yes?:

Four Star Review For ‘I, Dolours’ Highlights ‘Creative Re-Enactments’


Is The Sinn Fein-British Royals’ Coziness Linked To Mary-Lou’s Commonwealth Plan?

‘Softly, Softly Catchee Monkee’, should have been the motto for Sinn Fein’s peace process strategy, if you think about it. You know how it goes: mention an unmentionable enough times, people get used to it and soon enough the unthinkable becomes the doable.

The 1994 ceasefire was arranged in that way, repeated mentions along with denials that it would happen, giving way to a grudging acceptance of its inevitability and eventually delivered in a way that kept most of the faithful on board. So was power-sharing at Stormont and compliance with the consent principle, the acceptance of the PSNI and, of course, IRA decommissioning.

So forgive old cynical me if I see a little bit of the same in Mary Lou McDonald’s weekend interview with The Journal in which she floats the idea of Ireland ‘re-joining’ the British Commonwealth. Ireland quit in 1949 when the 26 counties declared themselves a republic. See below.

Now the British Commonwealth is headed by the British monarch of the day so I am wondering if it is entirely a coincidence that nearly every British royal who visits Ireland these days, especially south of the Border, gets to meet a leading Shinner.

Gerry Kelly, former IRA Adjutant-General (No 2 in the IRA hierarchy) and London bomber being the latest. Just a thought. You know how it goes: the more Royals the Shinners are seen with the more acceptable becomes the idea of rejoining the Commonwealth. Or am I taking a step too far?

Prince Charles meets Sinn Fein’s Gerry Kelly and Carol Cullen

Gerry Adams and Prince Charles share a cup of tea and a joke

Mary Lou McDonald: The idea of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth needs to be discussed

The Sinn Féin leader said the Irish government must start to put plans in place for a united Ireland.

Mary Lou McDonald interviewSinn Féin party leader Mary Lou McDonald Source: PA Wire/PA Images

MARY LOU MCDONALD has said she is open to discussions on Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth.

In an interview with, the Sinn Féin leader said there must be an open debate in order to encourage unionists to participate in a discussion about a united Ireland.

McDonald said she cannot call for an openness, and then censor voices before the debate has begun.

“You can hardly make that call and then say ‘we are not going to discuss any particular item’. And there are some people who think that rejoining the Commonwealth is a worthy proposition.

“I think those that hold that view need to put that view forward, and I think it needs to be looked at, and debated, and it needs to be discussed.

“It is not a proposition that I would be advancing – but I am me. This is not all about Sinn Féin. This is much bigger than us. The debate has to have the capacity to put everything on the table and then the business of debate and discussion in a reflective way, not a divisive way,” she said.

The idea of Ireland rejoining the Commonwealth has been floated by a number of politicians, such as Fine Gael Senator Frank Feighan who argues that it would promote Ireland’s values to a global audience, while strengthening and growing important economic and cultural ties internationally.

United Ireland 

McDonald also said the Irish government needs to take the lead in the debate about a united Ireland and start making plans about how it might be achieved.

“I am firmly of the view that we are now on the way to a unity referendum. I think the genie is out of the bottle. I think the discussion around a new Ireland, how we might get there, and what it might look like is already underway.”

She said she is “conscious that Brexit is a very bad thing for Ireland”, adding that “for us to have a debate around the new Ireland and to have a referendum poll, obviously a chaotic Brexit is not the ideal music for that to happen”.

However, she added that she in no way thinks Brexit means a border poll should be put on the back-burner.

I am not arguing for a delay. I am an Irish republican, I am the leader of Sinn Fein, I want us to achieve Irish unity and I want us to do it as soon as we can and I know for that to happen we need space and the best atmosphere we can have in which to have that debate.

But, if the Tories insist on crashing out of Europe, and take the north of Ireland out of the European Union “in chaotic manner”, then the next question to be asked is the Constitutional one, said McDonald.

A border poll

Last week, she said “the time for a unity referendum is drawing near ”. This comment came just days after an interview where she commented that a “crash Brexit” would not be the time to look at a border poll or a united Ireland.

“The Constitutional question [of a border poll on a united Ireland] would have to be put – there is no way the Tories could inflict that level of disorder, of uncertainty, and damage on the island of Ireland and imagine that they are not going to put the Constitutional question.

“But it does not represent the optimal atmosphere in which to have the discussion and debate, so that was the point I was making,” said the Dublin Central TD.

Sinn Féin have already set out a five-year timeframe for when they believe a border poll should be held, but McDonald said she, nor anyone else, is in a position to guess the exact date.

Before a border poll takes place, detailed plans and discussions need to be organised, something the Irish government must act on now, said the party leader.

The government in Dublin have a particular responsibility for that. We have argued for a long time that there ought to be an Oireachtas committee on Irish unity, that we need to see a green paper on Irish unity. The time for planning and really putting the ideas on that table is now and the government here needs to lead on that.

Her comments come just a few short weeks after the former leader of the DUP Peter Robinson said he believed Northern Ireland should prepare for the possibility of Irish unity, though he said he did not think Northern Ireland will want to leave.

The voices of unionism

McDonald said it is “very important that unionism finds its space, finds its voice and follows the advice of Peter Robinson and takes its head out of the sand”.

Unionism needs to set out “their wishes, their ideas, their ambitions – all of that needs to get underway”, she added.

McDonald denied some of the comments made by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil politicians that a border poll would be divisive.

“The change is in the air, and coming this way, it cannot be ignored, it can’t be denied, it can’t be delayed, in my view. I have heard a lot of people say that the poll on unity would be divisive, it would be dangerous, it is one of these issues that is ‘too hot to handle’. I don’t accept that,” said the party leader, adding that she believes the debate will be “liberating” and  “invigorating”.

“We have to ask, in the national interest, in the interest of people right across the country, what is the next move and the next move post-Brexit is to re-fashion Ireland on a 32 county basis.

“It is big challenge, it is a huge job of work, it is a job for all of us.”