As celebrations continue over the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage, Christy Burke, the lord mayor of Dublin, has waded in on another contentious issue, this time in Spain.
“We understand perfectly the position, the vision and the feelings of the Catalan people because we know what it was like to be treated as second class citizens,” he told Catalan news agency, ACN.
Burke was meeting with a delegation from the Public Diplomacy Council of Catalonia (DIPLOCAT) which was in Dublin to pay homage to nationalist and republican leaders Charles Stewart Parnell and James Connolly. Parnell was instrumental in Ireland’s fight for home rule while Connolly was executed by firing squad for his leadership role in the Easter Rising in 1916.
Christy Burke, the Lord Mayor of Dublin. Photo: Dublin City Council
“I have no doubt that your day will also come, I have no doubt,” Burke said.
“I hope that your country can move forward, as did Ireland,” he added, in comments that are sure to fire up both sides of the Catalan independence debate.
“I am convinced that Ireland can help your leaders to make a suitable, decent and independent country through the process of self-determination,” the Dublin mayor said, adding that Catalonia had access to “great Irish negotiators” to take the process forward and the “experience” of “friends who know” such as Sinn Fein or Gerry Adams could be “very valuable” to Catalonia.
“You deserve independence, you deserve self-determination,” added Burke, an independent councillor and lord mayor, who served two years in prison on IRA membership charges in the 1970s.
Burke was involved in the Northern Ireland peace process negotiations of the late 1990s and supported IRA ceasefires. He originally won a seat for Sinn Fein in the 2009 local elections, Burke left the party three days later, becoming an independent.
Burke also compared Catalonia to Scotland, urging Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy to allow Catalonia a referendum on independence, just as British Prime Minister David Cameron did with Scotland.
“I hope the prime minister and the government allow your basic right of self-determination, for the right to live the way you want to,” he said.
Regional President Artur Mas called for a referendum on independence in the region last November 9th. But such a plebiscite was ruled as illegal after being refered by Spain's government to the Constitutional Court.
Instead an unofficial “symbolic” ballot was held, organized by volunteers in whcih 2.3 million people cast their vote. Roughly 80 percent favoured independence from Spain.
However, opinion polls show that the vote would be more evenly split in a binding referendum with those against a breakaway numbering 45.3 percent against 44.5 percent for independence.