The document includes a sly dig at Gerry Adams here:
The SDLP recognises that it would be wrong to force Northern Ireland into a United Ireland without the consent of a majority. We are equally opposed to any suggestion that Northern Ireland should be kept in the United Kingdom despite the vote of a majority.
We cannot agree with Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams that unionist “consent and assent” would be required to bring about a United Ireland. Nor can we agree with Jeffrey Donaldson and other unionist politicians who have advocated the same position. The threshold for a United Ireland cannot be any higher than for a United Kingdom.
Uniquely among the main parties in the North, the SDLP is clear that there must be a United Ireland if a majority in the North votes in favour.
Sinn Fein Chairman Mitchel McLaughlin welcomed the document launch:
"The Sinn Féin demand for Irish Independence and Unity has always been up front and clear. The same cannot be said of the SDLP. During a recent election campaign the SDLP told us that we now lived in a post nationalist situation and the demand for Irish unity was no longer a realistic goal. Sinn Féin rejected this notion at the time and continue to do so.
"If today’s launch by the SDLP is a genuine shift away from the folly of their post nationalist position onto the ground of Irish unity then that would obviously be a welcome move and comes a month after Sinn Féin published detailed proposals and launched a campaign for the Irish government to bring forward a Green Paper on Irish Unity."
(Part of the background to all this activity is the fact that Durkan and McLaughlin are engaged in a tight battle for the Foyle seat at the Westminster election.)
The Unionist Belfast Newsletter reacted negatively to the SDLP launch on Monday:
According to an advance notice of today’s three-city launch, the SDLP is to link "Irish unity" to the Belfast Agreement, which was sold to unionists by Tony Blair and others as being the instrument of consent for the expressed will of the majority of people in Northern Ireland to remain British.
Most unionists now view the Belfast Agreement with great suspicion and the SDLP leadership will make a huge mistake if they are to argue that the 1998 document is the template whereby the people of Northern Ireland will be trundled into a united Ireland.
The Newsletter seems to imply that the principle of consent should only work one way. In fact, it guarantees the right of a majority to keep Northern Ireland in the UK, but it also guarantees the right of the SDLP and Sinn Fein to put their case to the electorate and seek a future majority for Irish unity.