Former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams has called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “stand up to the Brits” on the issue of Irish unity.

Mr Adams made the comments when delivering the annual Pat Finucane lecture at St Mary’s University College in Belfast.

In a wide ranging speech the Louth TD touched on a number of issues including the life of Mr Finucane, Brexit, the political stalemate in Northern Ireland and the road to Irish unity. 

He told the large crowd at the event that he didn’t believe Northern Ireland would ever achieve a full bill of rights “until we have control of our own affairs, free from British involvement”.

Mr Adams said that the Good Friday Agreement sets out a peaceful and democratic way to achieve Irish unity and that the process should be accelerated.

The long-time Sinn Fein leader called on the Irish government to establish a forum to establish “an informed and inclusive” debate around Irish unity.

Mr Adams said that while many are critical of Brexit, nobody would accept the EU overruling Parliament and telling the UK they could not leave.

“When the people of Ireland voted to leave the British Empire and elected the First Dail one hundred years ago the British government did exactly that. London said you cannot leave the Empire. London said no and went on to outlaw and suppress that Parliament,” he said.

The Louth TD called on the Irish government to “learn from the lessons of history” and recognise that the UK government “does not have friends. It has interests and it always only acts in its own interests”

He called on Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to “stand up to the Brits and standby the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts”.

“He needs to have a consistent all island visions and all island objectives in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Adams said.

“In addition, there is a responsibility and a constitutional obligation on Irish governments to promote the goal of Irish unity and to work to achieve it through democratic dialogue and negotiation.”

During his lecture Mr Adams called for the establishment of a Bill of Rights for Northern Ireland and the establishment of equal marriage rights, new abortion laws, and equal marriage legislation.

The former Sinn Fein President also expressed concern about the rights of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland after Brexit.

The Republic of Ireland’s Committee on the Administration of Justice has warned that Irish citizens in the North may be reduced to the status of “second class citizens” after Brexit.

Mr Adams stated that Leo Varadkar had previously guaranteed the rights of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland in the past and must live up to his promise.

“Many now believe this promise has been broken. The specific commitment to citizens who reside in the North is missing from the Withdrawal Agreement published last November,” he said.

The Louth TD also paid tribute to human rights lawyer Pat Finucane ahead of the anniversary of his murder.

Mr Finucane was 38 when he was shot dead by masked loyalist paramilitaries in front of his wife Geraldine and their three children at their Belfast home on February 12 1989.

His son John is set to run for a seat on Belfast City Council as a Sinn Fein candidate in the upcoming local elections in May.

“As a human rights lawyer it didn’t matter to Pat whether you were a republican, a unionist, a loyalist, or none of these,” Mr Adams said.

“If you were arrested you have rights and Pat’s responsibility – his vocation – his mission in life – was to vindicate and defend those rights. Pat believed that the law should uphold and protect the rights of citizens.”

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