Kenny and McGuinness seek change in North’s EU status post-Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Deputy First Minister are united on the need for a deal

 Martin McGuinness: “Brexit means disaster for the people of Ireland.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Martin McGuinness: “Brexit means disaster for the people of Ireland.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Northern Ireland should push the EU to grant it associate or even membership status to avoid the devastating consequences of Brexit for Irish people, Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said.

Mr McGuinness said political leaders in Belfast and Dublin needed to work together to make the case for special rules to apply to the North when the EU and UK begin talks on a post-Brexit deal because “as things sit at the moment we are going to suffer big time”.

Theresa May says ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but so far as we are concerned Brexit means disaster for the people of Ireland,” he added.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has pledged to argue strongly at European level for such a deal. Mr Kenny told The Irish Times: “There are very particular circumstances that apply in the case of the Republic and Northern Ireland, and Ireland and Britain, that don’t apply in other countries”.

Mr McGuinness said he was encouraged that the DUP, with whom his Sinn Féin party shares power in Belfast, also agreed that Ireland needed to be treated as a special case because of the importance of the problems presented by Brexit.

The Taoiseach pointed to the role the EU has played in the peace process in conflict resolution and in putting funding in place. He said there was an understanding at European level that Northern Ireland was a particularly sensitive issue.

Mr Kenny is to chair an All-Ireland civic forum, involving political parties and representatives of civic society North and South, in Dublin on November 2nd.

“I believe that it is really important that we have all of the voices reflective of Ireland over a series of meetings,” he said.

The DUP has said it will not attend and Mr Kenny said he understood the party’s position and was not seeking “a grandstanding performance” from anyone.

“It is more of a listening exercise for political parties because we need to hear the voice of retail, the voice of trade, of commerce, of the construction sector, education and all of these areas, North and South,” he said.