The border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the village of Bridgend, Co Donegal. Credit: Brian Lawless / PA Wire/Press Association Images. All rights reserved. SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has called for the Irish government to convene an All-Party Forum for political parties North and South to consider the issues and implications arising from the EU referendum result – not least in terms of helping to develop optimum coherence and consensus on how to minimise the adverse economic fallout and ensure growth across the island.
Mr Durkan said: “The Irish government should convene an All-Party Forum for parties North and South to consider the issues and implications arising from the referendum result.
“We must not compound the uncertainties and complications that a UK exit process would bring. Rather than parties getting into kneejerk stances and reciting certitudes which do not actually address the economic uncertainties, we need to collectively appraise the issues and interests, which most need to be managed and protected as an unknown process unfolds.
“It is clear that the UK government and political process, even if under a leaver premier, has no sat nav for a safe and sensible way to a reliable destination.
“Rather than just tailgating wherever [the] postures, impulses and prejudices of British politics take them to, we in Ireland need to map the challenges, purposes and priorities that could most affect us North and South.
Many people...are aggrieved to be told that Northern Ireland is to be forced out of the EU without the democratic consent of people there.
“We need to look soberly at all of the issues which will now be real and no longer dismissible as campaign rhetoric. We will also have to develop optimum coherence and consensus on how to minimise the adverse economic fallout, and how to safeguard and renew the prospectus for cooperation, policy partnership and growth across the island which was compellingly endorsed by the Irish people in ratios that far outweigh the verdict in this week’s misconceived UK referendum.”
In the context of the impact of Brexit on the Good Friday Agreement (Belfast Agreement) 1998, Durkan quotes the GFA: The British and Irish Governments…wishing to develop still further the unique relationship between their peoples and the close co-operation between their countries as friendly neighbours and as partners in the European Union;”
“The [North-South Ministerial] Council to consider the European Union dimension of relevant matters, including the implementation of EU policies and programmes and proposals under consideration in the EU framework. Arrangements to be made to ensure that the views of the Council are taken into account and represented appropriately at relevant EU meetings.”
As the above quotations show, common membership of the EU was taken as a given when the Good Friday Agreement was negotiated and ratified in such overwhelming terms by the Irish people, north and south.
The Good Friday Agreement has the principle of consent at its core. It even had to be endorsed in a dual referendum, a unique and definitive source of democratic legitimacy. Over 55% of people in Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU. 78.2% of voters in my own constituency of Foyle voted to remain. So, many people, not only Nationalists, are aggrieved to be told that Northern Ireland is to be forced out of the EU without the democratic consent of people there. This will do injury to the precepts and promises of the Good Friday Agreement, engender disaffection and exacerbate economic challenges, not least in border areas.
There is indignation that the expressed will of the clear majority of people in Northern Ireland is dismissed by smug stances from the Secretary of State and the First Minister.
It is for these reasons that I have called on the Irish government to convene an All-Party Forum for political parties North and South to consider the implications arising from the referendum result to help develop optimum coherence and consensus on how to minimise the adverse economic fallout and ensure growth across the island.