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Taoiseach needs to outline plans for All-Island Civic Dialogue – Adams

18 October, 2016 - by Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams TD, speaking during Leaders’ Questions this afternoon, has said that in dealing with the consequences of “Brexit” the government needs to become proactive about setting out contingencies to protect and promote the national interests of the entire island.

He also urged the Taoiseach to explain what plans are in place with regards participation in respect of the All-Island Civic Dialogue and to announce full details of its work.

Teachta Adams said:

“Brexit is already having serious effects on the Irish economy. The declining value of Sterling is hurting Irish businesses exporting to Britain and five of Ireland's sixty mushroom farms have so far gone out of business since the referendum - two of them last week alone.

“There are also serious implications for Border counties in particular, including my own constituency of Louth, where there is real concern amongst the business community, and last week we saw the prospect of price increases for consumers across the State.

“Key to allaying concerns will be the work of the All-Island Civic Dialogue, which I’m glad the Taoiseach eventually agreed to put in place.

“I’ve sent him Sinn Féin’s proposals in respect of its structure and its work.

“In our view, its principal objective needs to be about securing the position of the island of Ireland within the European Union, in line with the democratically expressed wishes of the people of the north. That needs to be the starting point.

“The Dialogue must deliver an inclusive process of policy debate that meaningfully informs the government's political and policy response to the British government’s Brexit plans. Beyond that it should agree a framework that shapes the government’s strategic direction in respect of the EU-wide negotiations that will take place once Article 50 is triggered.

“Rather than wait to see what the British government does, the government needs to be proactive about setting out contingencies to protect and promote the national interests of the entire island.

“I would urge the Taoiseach to explain what plans are now in place in terms of participation in the Dialogue and its work programme and to indicate when he will be in a position to provide full details.” 

Note: Please see Sinn Féin’s proposed terms of reference for the All-Island Civic Dialogue below

Sinn Féin Submission on Proposed Terms of Reference

All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit

 Political Objective and Scope

The principal political objective of the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit process must be to secure the position of the Island of Ireland within the European Union in line with the democratically expressed wishes of the people of Ireland.

This must sustain the political, constitutional, economic and legal integrity and obligations of the Irish and British Governments as set out in the Good Friday Agreement and the St. Andrews Agreement; the former having the status of a binding international treaty.

This is the foundation stone of the still evolving peace process which explicitly accepts “that all of the institutional and constitutional arrangements – an Assembly in Northern Ireland, a North/South Ministerial Council, implementation bodies, a British-Irish Council and a British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference and any amendments to British Acts of Parliament and the Constitution of Ireland – are interlocking and interdependent and that in particular the functioning of the Assembly and the North/South Council are so closely inter-related that the success of each depends on that of the other.”

Economic prosperity, trade relationships and employment across the Island of Ireland must be protected and enhanced to support and develop this critical work in progress. 

The scope of the dialogue should be twofold; that is, to

(1) Facilitate an inclusive process of open policy debate and to inform the Government's medium term political and policy response to the British Governments Brexit plans. This should form the basis of a Government Green Paper for wider public consultation.


(2) Agree a policy framework that shapes the future strategic direction of the Government. This should set out a practical vision and implementation plan, which forms the basis of a Government White Paper.


Irish society as a whole will be impacted by a British Brexit.

Membership, therefore, must be inclusive and representative of all the relevant sectors and broad opinion across this island – North and South.

This should include;

Agriculture and farming representatives; University and Higher Education sector, including student representatives; Churches; Trade Unions and employers representative bodies; Voluntary and Community sector; Human Rights, Victims/Survivors, Migrant representative organisations; Business and trade representatives; the six All-Ireland implementation bodies operating under the NSMC; Constitutional and legal professionals representative bodies; Social, Language and Cultural organisations; Energy and Transportation sectors (including airports, sea-ports, road); diaspora; Local Authority led cross border networks; and others to be determined.

Political Representation

Delegate seats for political parties elected to both the Oireachtas and the European Parliament should be determined on the basis of proportional representation using the D’hondt system.

Political parties in the north should be invited to attend. Representation should be by members of the Assembly, Westminster or the European Parliament. Publicly elected Independents in the Assembly and/or Westminster, should also be invited.

Substitutes should be appointed in line with the above, and would be entitled to contribute to the proceedings and, vote in their own name if required.


Observer status could be granted to stakeholders with an interest in proceedings. This could include accredited media and foreign diplomatic corps, European Commission, Government Officials, and others as agreed.

Structure and Format

A Chairperson of national and/or international standing should be appointed by the Government for the duration of the proceedings.

A Steering Committee comprising the Chairperson and Party Leaders, or their appointee should manage the efficient and effective conduct of committee business.

The All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit will agree its own rules of procedure.

The inaugural public session on 2nd November should be addressed by the Leaders of participating parties.

The format of proceedings beyond the 2nd November meeting in plenary session should be modular based.These should examine key areas of challenge and concern, and facilitate open policy debate on core policy options to inform the Government's medium term policy response to the British Brexit. These would include economic, social, political, constitutional, legal, educational and cultural dimensions. And, international treaty obligations including Good Friday Agreement obligations.

Monthly plenary meetings should take place in public. These should include live web streaming. 

Sub-Committees or Task Groups should be established. These would meet between full plenary meetings to ensure effective engagement with sectoral stakeholders – i.e agriculture, energy and university and higher education sectors.

Written submissions should be invited from the public, including the diaspora of which non-Irish citizens and Irish passport holders living in the North will have particular concerns about the British Brexit.

Foremost of these is the cross community majority anti-Brexit vote. 

This provides another reason to address the issue of a border poll in this dialogue.

An effective means of actively promoting engagement through the use of social media, video conference, etc. needs put in place.

Oral evidence and presentations should be taken from a wide range of individuals, (Government Ministers, Academics, Legal experts, etc), in order to help inform debate and allow for further elaboration and discussion of their submissions. 

Meetings of the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit should be rotated and held North and South, as per existing arrangements of the North South Ministerial Council. 

Modular reports should be prepared, published and laid before the Oireachtas. These should reflect political and sectoral opinion, evidence presented and recommendations made. A final report setting out conclusions and recommendations should be published to inform the strategic direction of a future Government policy – White Paper.


The Government should provide a standing secretariat to service the process.

The Conference must have the ability to commission expert reports.

Public venues should be used North and South to facilitate meetings.

It should conduct its business in as economical manner as possible.

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