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Brexit requires an Irish solution to a British problem - Adams

9 December, 2016 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, addressing the Institute of International and European Affairs in Dublin today has laid out the rationale for the critical decision by citizens in the north in June to remain in the European Union.

He said that Brexit posed economic, social and political challenges for the island of Ireland, and that basic human rights provisions are under threat as a result of the British Government’s insistence in dragging the north out of the EU.

He continued by saying that the Irish Governments negotiating position “must be about securing designated special status for the north”, and “has the right and in Sinn Féin’s view the obligation, to bring forward such proposals under Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union”.

He acknowledged Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s address to the Seanad last week in which she said, ‘we are living in unprecedented times and those unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking’. Teachta Adams challenged An Taoiseach to follow Nicola Sturgeon’s example.

Teachta Adams  said:

“There’s a basic fact that’s been largely ignored by most political actors and media commentators both on this island and in Britain that can’t be stressed often enough, and that is that on Thursday 23rd June, a majority of citizens in the north, in the so-called ‘Brexit’ referendum voted to remain in the European Union. 

“It was only the second time since partition that nationalists, unionists and republicans have voted together in common cause. The first time was of course in 1998 when the people of the north, and indeed in the south, endorsed the Good Friday Agreement.

“Not unlike that historic decision almost two decades ago, the Democratic Unionist Party’s worldview was rejected.

“Citizens recognised that despite its many faults it was in their political and economic self-interest to be part of the EU. The EU has been a partner for peace; providing substantial political and financial aid over many years. It has contributed to greater economic and social progress in the north, and in the border region and across the island.

“I also believe that citizens in the north voted to remain because they recognise it makes sense that Ireland, in its entirety, should remain part of the same trading bloc, as part of the same single market, with the freedom of movement of people and goods and services that that membership guarantees.

“Many unionists too – especially in business – recognise that all-island trade, commerce, co-operation and movement is vital to our collective economic capacity and progress, and that is the context in which the many challenges posed by Brexit must be assessed and tackled in the coming period. 

“Brexit is not just an issue for the north. It is as much an issue for the shopkeeper in Derry, or the farmer in Fermanagh, for the small farmer in Louth, the business person in Dublin, the fishing communities along our coast, the multi-nationals or the college student in Cork.

He continued:

“Basic human rights provisions are also under threat.

“The Good Friday Agreement is a historic compromise. It is not a settlement. It is an agreement to a journey.

“The outcome of that journey might be a United Ireland, or a continuation of the union with Britain, or indeed some other constitutional arrangement, but whatever its outcome that is a matter for peaceful and democratic debate.

“An integral part of the Good Friday Agreement are a range of safeguards and legislative measures that are intended to ensure equality of treatment and parity of esteem.

“It specifically states that the North/South Ministerial Council must consider the European Union dimension in all relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework.

“It calls for arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.

“The Agreement also required that the British Government incorporate into the law of the North the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

“This allows direct access to the courts, and remedies for breach of the Convention, including power for the courts to overrule Assembly legislation on grounds of inconsistency.

“All of that is now at serious risk.

“In Sinn Féin’s view, our collective objective in the coming months and years has 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.

“There is a plethora of possibilities, and 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.

“We must be about securing designated special status for the north, and the Irish State, as a continuing member of the EU, has the right and in our view the obligation, to bring forward such proposals under Article 48 of the Treaty of the European Union.

“First Minister Sturgeon in her address to the Seanad last week said, ‘we are living in unprecedented times and those unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking’.

“The Taoiseach should follow Nicola Sturgeon’s example.

“Rather than being mesmerised by what the London government is going to do he needs to develop an all-island vision.

“Rather than being blinkered by the parameters of this state government policy has to be for a designated special status for the North within the EU.

“I welcome the Taoiseach’s establishment of the all-Ireland Civic Dialogue though when Sinn Féin first proposed such a national forum it was dismissed and the Taoiseach’s introduction of that idea to the DUP leader was clumsy; and less than sure footed.

“However, the initiative I think provides the potential to democratise an all-Ireland approach which takes on board the democratic will of the people in the North without changing the current constitutional position.

“We need to think all-island and act on that imperative. As Nicola Sturgeon has said these unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking.”

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