The first of two Sinn Féin conferences on the unification of Ireland has taken place in Dublin.

The events involve a range of participants from business, economic, sporting, cultural and political backgrounds.

Uniting Ireland, economically, culturally and socially was the theme of the conference in Dublin today.

During the Catholic, Protestant and Dissenter session, Aengus Ó Snodaigh said that 'on this island we as Irish people have a shared history, but not a shared interpretation of that history.'

He emphasised that the republican and cultural heritage of the protestant working class had been denied by British unionist leaders and that a greater exchange is needed to correct this.

Writer Brian Keenan, who was held hostage in Beirut for four years, said that those in the protestant tradition were often more certain of what they were not, than what they were.

Referring to the proclamation, Norah Gibbons, director of advocacy at Barnados, told the gathering that 'there are children and families for whom there is very little that is good in their lives and for whom this republic has not fulfilled the ideas of cherishing all the children of the nation equally.'

She was speaking during the session on Equality and Children in the New Republic.

A second conference will be held in Cork next Saturday.

Announcing the events earlier this month, Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams said his party understood the importance of addressing the concerns of unionists in a meaningful way to allow them to find their place in a new, shared Ireland.

Mr Adams said the vast majority of citizens on this island supported the goal of a united Ireland.

The conference comes after the results of a Life and Times Survey showed 52% of Catholics in Northern Ireland want it to remain part of the United Kingdom.