North and South politicians to discuss Brexit
Taoiseach to host opinion leaders from trade and politics at forum on effect of UK’s EU exit
Taoiseach Enda Kenny. Politicians, employer groups, trade unions, farmers and NGOs from both sides of the Border will attend a discussion hosted by him in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke
The implications of Brexit on the island of Ireland will be debated on Wednesday by an all-Ireland group of politicians, civil society and business groups hosted by Taoiseach Enda Kenny at the Royal Hospital in Kilmainham, Dublin.
Mr Kenny’s decision to found the group has been strongly criticised by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, who has refused an invitation extended to the DUP. The Ulster Unionists also refused.
Employer groups, trade unions, farmers and NGOs from both sides of the Border will attend along with Border local authorities and Government agencies, particularly ones with a North-South dimension.
Following the Taoiseach’s opening address, all sides will present their assessment of the challenges thrown up by the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.
Emphasising the need for a strategy to give Northern Ireland a special relationship with the EU following Brexit, Sinn Féin will insist that the North’s circumstances must be accommodated.
Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said Wednesday’s gathering was hugely important: “This is not just an issue for the North; it will impact on the entire island and it is vital we deal with it on that basis.
“It is crucial that the Irish Government represents the national interests of all Irish citizens, of the economies North and South, and safeguards the advances of the Good Friday and other agreements,” he went on.
Ibec chief executive Danny McCoy said, “a sophisticated response is delivered to head off both the long-term and short term pressures Brexit presents for the economy”.
SDLP leader Colm Eastwood said the Government must “defend” all of the people of Ireland, ensuring that the North stays in the EU single market and that free movement across the Border is protected.
“What we need now is an Irish solution to a European problem,” said Mr Eastwood. “This dialogue represents a real opportunity to co-ordinate and ensure the North remains at the top of the Government’s priorities.”
Former Northern Executive minister Alliance MLA Dr Stephen Farry said the North is unique: “It could see us as a region remaining inside the EU or outside with some form of special recognition,” he said.
“This is wider than unionism and nationalism. The issues facing us all around Brexit need to be approached on a pragmatic basis, completely separate from distinct constitutional issues,” said Dr Farry.