Martin McGuinness issues Brexit warning to new NI Secretary
Sinn Féin Minister says Brokenshire needs to realise the North sees ‘its future in Europe’
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has said the new British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, needs to realise that people in the North ‘see their future in Europe’. File photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
The Deputy First Minister was speaking at Stormont Castle on Monday after Mr Brokenshire ruled out a Border poll during his first public engagement in his new role.
Sinn Féin party president Gerry Adams also welcomed remarks by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin in support of a potential referendum on Irish unity and said nobody, including Mr Brokenshire, could say what the fallout from Britain’s Brexit vote will be.
“The fact is we are in an entirely new dispensation given the vote to leave the EU and given the fact the people on this part of the island voted to remain,” Mr Adams said.
Mr McGuinness said the Conservative Party only received about 3,000 votes in the North’s recent Assembly election, which meant that Mr Brokenshire “doesn’t represent anybody here”.
“The referendum clearly showed that unionists, nationalists and republicans voted together, 56 per cent, because we see our future in Europe. ” he said.
Mr Brokenshire had made the Border poll comments after visiting Belfast City Hall to sign a book of condolence in memory of the 84 people who lost their lives in the terror attack in Nice on July 14th.
After briefly meeting with the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Mr Brokenshire said at a press conference that security, political stability, attracting investment, legacy issues and getting “the best deal for Northern Ireland” in Brexit negotiations were among his priorities.
On the Government’s suggestion for an all-island forum to deal with the fallout of Brexit, Mr Brokenshire said the North-South Ministerial Council “may well prove the most appropriate forum to do that”.
Mr Brokenshire had campaigned for a remain vote in the UK’s EU membership referendum last month, but said “we do need to move on” following the vote to leave.
On calls for an Irish unity referendum, he said: “There is a clear constitutional settlement in relation to the Border poll and it is also clear to me opinion does not support a change.”
On whether Westminster would ignore the Assembly if it was to reject Brexit, by voting down a legislative consent motion, he said it was important to remember “the referendum was for the whole of the United Kingdom and the UK spoke very clearly about where our future should be”.
Mr Brokenshire said there was strong political will between the UK and Irish governments to ensure there would be no return to hard Border arrangements and described his initial discussions with Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald on the subject as positive.
Meanwhile, former soldier Kris Hopkins, who survived two IRA attempts on his life during the Troubles, has been appointed junior minister at the Northern Ireland Office.
In the past, Mr Hopkins wrote about his “revulsion” at Mr McGuinness.
However, Mr Brokenshire did not believe this would be an impediment to forging good relations with Sinn Féin and spoke of Mr Hopkins being clear about “the journey he is on”.