Speaking at the annual Edentubber Commemoration South Armagh MLA Megan Fearon said now was the time fro the British Government to call a referendum on Irish unity.
The Sinn Féin representative and Executive Junior Minister made the call at the 59th anniversary commemoration of Michael Watters and IRA volunteers George Keegan, Paul Smith, Oliver Craven and Paddy Parle.
“We gather here today to commemorate five fearless republicans who gave their lives for the cause of Irish freedom at this site almost 60 years ago,” she said.
“Although they died back in 1957, as republicans we still remember Oliver Craven, Paul Smith. George Keegan, Patrick Parle and Michael Watters with pride.
“Their sacrifice, together with the generations of republicans who came before them, and those who followed in the most recent phase of conflict is not forgotten.
“They are part of a proud and unbroken republican tradition and today, their courage, determination and vision still guides us.
“Three of the Edentubber Martyrs came from this area - an area with a strong republican base - while the other two came from Wexford, a country with a republican heritage stretching back to 1798.
“They came together with common purpose; to bring about the reunification of this island - a vision we all share here today.
They knew that the partition of our country was a disaster and that it had failed our people, just as it continues to to this day.
“They knew that the continued division of our country was an affront to the ideals which inspired them, the ideals of the 1916 Proclamation.
“They were not prepared to accept a British-imposed border on the island of Ireland.
“Together, they set out to strike a blow against partition and for Irish freedom. A premature explosion ended their lives but their spirit lives on today as we continue their work.
“The huge crowds which turned out as their funeral cortege made its way through Dundalk was a fitting tribute to their bravery and heroism.
“This year hundreds of thousands of people across Ireland and further afield came together to commemorate the centenary of the 1916 Easter Rising.
“The legacy of the men and women of Easter Week was an inspiration to the Edentubber Martyrs and they, in turn, are an inspiration to us.
“The commemorations have rekindled the passion for Irish freedom and reunification as we rededicate ourselves to the vision of 1916.
“They focused the minds of many on the need to complete the work of previous generations of republicans.
“Despite the efforts of those who seek to continue to subjugate us; whether British Tories in London or conservative nationalists here in Ireland, the demand for Irish unity is stronger than ever.
“In elections north and south this year, support for Sinn Féin grew and we now have 28 MLAs including five Executive ministers in the Assembly, 23 TDs in the Dáil, seven Seanadóirí, four MPs and four MEPs, along hundreds of councillors north and south, we represent every part of this island. Every home and every blade of grass.
“In the North, I and my Ministerial colleagues are jointly leading the Executive, despite the challenges of British Tory austerity and those who wish to turn back the clock on the progress we have made. But there is still much more to do. Particularly in advancing equality for all and we remain committed to athe acheivement of Acht na Gaeilge and seeing marriage equality extended throughout the island.
“In the 26 counties, just like in the late 1950s when the Edentubber Martyrs and their comrades struck against partition, we have a Fine Gael-led government pursuing aggressive and vindictive policies against the people. They used regressive and punitive legislation to attack the growth of republicanism.
“Today, we hear echoes of the worst aspects of Free Staterism from a Fine Gael-led government, propped up by their cronies in Fianna Fáil, who offer the same old politics of elites and inequality they were peddling six decades ago.
“Now, in 2016 they continue to punish those most in need through water charges, protect those in power and to continue to deny rights to women.
“Sinn Féin is leading the opposition to the failed policies of Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil both in the Oireachtas and on the streets across Ireland.
“Every day more and more people are joining Sinn Féin, sharing our republican vision for a better, free and united Ireland.
“We will shortly be launching a key document outlining the next steps of our campaign for Irish unity.
“We want to see more and more people joining us to campaign for the reunification of our country.
“Removing the border is more relevant today than ever as the British Tory government pursues its Brexit agenda and attempts to drag the North out of the EU against the democratic will of the people.
“Just as partition has been a disaster for Ireland, Brexit would also be disastrous for the economies north and south.
“In 1918 the British attempted to ignore the will of the Irish people and now they are attempting to ignore the views of the people of the North who voted to remain in the EU.
“But just as the people challenged partition then, people today are also taking to the streets to oppose Britain's plans.
“Just a few weeks ago thousands of people gathered right along the border, including near here in our area, to send a clear message to Theresa May and her government that the vote of the people of the North must be recognised and respected.
“The Irish government too have a role to play in standing up for Ireland's national interest, in particular the rights of Irish citizens in the North. It must explore alternatives to Brexit which would afford the North designated special status within the EU.
“We need to continue to build support for this campaign to make it clear to the British and Irish governments that the people of Ireland reject borders, whether hard or soft, British or European, on the island of Ireland.
“The Good Friday Agreement allows for a referendum on the reunification of Ireland and we have consistently called on the British government to state publicly when it will be held.
“They have said that such a poll would be triggered when there is a significant change in attitude towards the current status quo and argue that has yet to happen. But how are they to gauge that?
“We have all seen lately how disastrously wrong opinion polls can be.
Well I have a message for James Brokenshire and Theresa May. WE ARE that significant change of attitude and there is a growing demand across Ireland's 32 counties for Irish unity.
“The increasing support for Sinn Féin across the country proves that. The elections held north and south this year proves that. And the result of the EU referendum in the North proves that.
“As we leave here today we need to continue to draw inspiration from the sacrifice of the Edentubber Martyrs.
“In everything we do….in the Dáil, in the Seanad, in the Assembly, in councils, in our workplaces, in our homes and on the streets we need to be the change in attitude for Irish unity.
“We need to make our voices heard - so that our demand for unity and freedom is growing.
“We will not be silenced and we will realise the vision of 1916 and of all those who fought for Irish unity.”