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All Island Civic Dialogue must focus on alternatives to Brexit

2 November, 2016 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams has this morning addressed the All Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham.

Teachta Adams said the forum “should not be about a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit.  It needs to be about moving beyond the consequences of Brexit and looking at alternatives.”

He said it “must be about securing designated special status for the North.  That threatens no ones constitutional preference and this State, as a continuing member of the EU, has the right and in our view the obligation, to bring forward such a proposal.”

Full text of Gerry Adams’ address follows:


Go raibh míle maith agat a Cathaoirleach,

Ar dtús baire, tá mé buíoch as an déis labhairt libh anseo ar maidin mar Uachtarán Shinn Féin.

Tá mé an sasta a bheith libh agus cuirim failte mór ar an comhdháil seo agus tá Sinn Féin buioch d’on Taoiseach agus Aire Flanagan as an ocáid a cuir le cheile.

Tá se hiontach na cheidth daoine a fheiceal ar maidin.

‘Brexit’ is already presenting massive challenges for the island of Ireland in the realm of trade and commerce.

Such challenges are obvious in Border counties, including my own constituency of Louth, where there is real concern amongst the business community.

Many are already being affected.

There is also very real concern in the north, where the prospect of inflation and an increase in the cost of living is likely, despite some short-term gains as a result of currency fluctuation. 

Jobs are at risk, investment is under threat and our agricultural community faces systemic complications.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg.

Beyond the enormous and unprecedented economic challenges, the entire post-Good Friday Agreement all-island institutional and political architecture is under very serious threat.

This is a direct consequence of the insistence of the British government that they intend to undermine the expressed democratic wish of citizens in part of our island to remain in the EU. 

Alongside London’s refusal to fully embrace elements of the Good Friday Agreement which they are responsible for, all-Ireland co-operation and integration, and the enhanced  community, cultural and social relations - which have been so beneficial to all the people of our island - face upheaval.

Citizens, families and communities will be on the receiving end of such difficulties.

In Sinn Féin’s view, our collective purpose here today and in other sessions of this Dialogue has to be about informing and shaping the government’s negotiating strategy.

Caithfidh an straitéis sin an bpróiseas síochána a chosaint.

That means ensuring the political, constitutional, economic and legal status of the Good Friday Agreement.

It means maintaining the freedom of movement of people and goods without tariffs or border controls.

It means safeguarding cross-border structural and peace funding.

And the human rights protections under the European Convention on Human Rights, which are such a critical component of the Good Friday Agreement and are central to the peace process, must be maintained.

To that end, the overriding principle and objective of our deliberations needs to be about securing the position of the island of Ireland within the European Union, in line with the democratically expressed wishes of citizens in the north. 

That means openly and meaningfully exploring options through which Ireland, in its entirety, can remain in the .

This should not be about a hard Brexit. Or a soft Brexit.

It need to be about moving beyond the consequences of Brexit and looking at alternatives.

That’s not beyond our collective wisdom.

A referendum on Irish unity should not be ruled out.

That is Sinn Féin’s preference.

We should also look to already unique arrangements in place in the EU.

Denmark is an EU member, yet Greenland is outside the Union.

It still receives European funding.

The EU, as a result of a decision by the European Council in this city in April 1990, became an active persuader for the reunification of Germany.

Northern Cyprus, in the event of Cypriot reunification, will be fully integrated into the EU.

Its seats in the European Parliament are allocated on the basis of the population of the island of Cyprus, not merely the de-facto State.  

It is an arrangement that must be considered for Ireland, given the inherent right of those born on this island to Irish citizenship, and by virtue of that right, citizenship of the European Union as well.

So rather than wait to see what the British government does, we need to be proactive about setting out alternatives - constitutional, political and otherwise - that protect and promote the national interests of our island.

That means acting nationally, in the accurate and meaningful meaning of that word.

It means defending Ireland’s interests, and defending the rights of citizens.

So, we must be about securing designated special status for the North.

That threatens no ones constitutional preference and this State, as a continuing member of the EU, has the right and in our view the obligation, to bring forward such a proposal.

The EU has proved itself capable of accommodating unique circumstances.

But it up to us to make the argument.

If we choose to persevere, act boldly, but first and foremost in line with the mandate of citizens on the island of Ireland, we can emerge stronger in a more outward-looking, progressive European Union.

Sin é an rogha a chairde.

Go raibh míle maith agaibh.

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