Government must ‘step up to plate’ over NI Brexit status

Michelle O’Neill urges Dublin to secure special status despite UK supreme court ruling

By a verdict of eight to three the UK supreme court has ruled that the British government needs parliamentary approval to trigger Article 50 and initiate Brexit. Video: Reuters

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The new leader of Sinn Féin at Stormont has called on the Government in Dublin to “step up to the plate” and secure special status for Northern Ireland within the EU once the UK leaves.

Michelle O’Neill said the UK Supreme Court’s ruling that the move to leave the union had to be passed by parliament ignored the will of the people of the North.

The court also concluded the devolved assembly would not have to be consulted when parliament votes on triggering EU exit negotiations by the end of March.

However, Ms O’Neill called on the Government to act despite the court’s ruling that Northern Ireland had no special status.

She said: “Clearly the ruling again ignores the will of the people of the North who voted by a majority to stay in the European Union. ”

The judges found, while Northern Ireland’s people had a fundamental constitutional voice on being part of the UK, that did not extend to being part of the EU.

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Ms O’Neill spoke to Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan on Monday night.

She said: “We believe that the North needs to have designated status.

“Clearly the onus is now on the Irish Government to step up to the plate.

“They need to act in the interests of all the citizens of this island because they will be at the negotiating table and it is important that they act in our interests and make sure that we do receive special status given the nature of where we are here.”

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU referendum by a majority of 56 per cent to 44 per cent.

Ms O’Neill said Brexit would undermine the 1998 Belfast Agreement which ended decades of violence and the principle of consent to change held by the people of the North.

She said human rights legislation underpinned the agreement.

“The failure to recognise the will of the people of the North is a failure by the Tory government, continually refusing to acknowledge the will of what the people here have asked for.

“Brexit will absolutely undermine the Good Friday Agreement and the principle of consent.”

PA

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