Tory-DUP deal ‘grave threat to political progress’ in North, Taoiseach told

Figures from sport, law and the arts sign ‘urgent appeal’ to Leo Varadkar

Conservative-DUP agreement: the Democratic Unionist politicians Nigel Dodds, Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson with Theresa May at Downing Street in June. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty

Conservative-DUP agreement: the Democratic Unionist politicians Nigel Dodds, Arlene Foster and Jeffrey Donaldson with Theresa May at Downing Street in June. Photograph: Carl Court/Getty

 

The British government’s deal with the DUP at Westminster has become a grave threat to political progress in the North, according to a letter from nationalist civic society to the Taoiseach.

An “urgent appeal” to the Irish Government has been made by more than 200 representatives of the education, health and sports sectors, as well as academics and Irish speakers.

They have asked Mr Varadkar for a commitment to “stand for equality and a human-rights-based society and your determination to secure and protect the rights of all citizens in the north of Ireland”.

The letter sent on Friday, seen by The Irish Times, was signed by “Irish citizens living in the north of Ireland to express our frustration and growing concern over the deepening nature of the ongoing political crises in the north”.

It states: “The Conservative Party’s political pact with the DUP has now become a grave threat to political progress.”

Oscar winners

Signatories include the former GAA president Peter Quinn, the Oscar winners Terry and Oorlagh George, the Hillsborough campaigner Prof Phil Scraton, the former Tyrone GAA captain Peter Canavan, the singer-songwriter Malachi Cush, the playwright Ronan Bennett, the Republic of Ireland soccer player James McClean, and the boxers Michael and Jamie Conlan.

The names of prominent legal figures such as Peter Madden, Pat Fahy, Kevin Winters and Niall Murphy are also attached to the letter.

From the media world, the columnist Brian Feeney and the commentator Patricia MacBride, a former victims commissioner, are among those to have observed “a concerted undermining of the political institutions established under the Good Friday Agreement and a laissez-faire approach being adopted by the two governments as co-guarantors”.

On the majority remain vote in the North at last year’s EU membership referendum the letter states: “We, our children and grandchildren should not be forced out of the EU against our democratic will. All of this is offensive and unacceptable to us and many others.”

Mr Varadkar said on Friday, after the conclusion of phase one of the Brexit talks, that the nationalist community in Northern Ireland would “never again be left behind by an Irish government”.

“Inalienable rights”

The solicitor Niall Murphy said Brexit was the defining issue of this generation, but the letter was generated after a broad range of frustrating issues emerged in 2017, “Brexit being one, but the issues pertaining to why we have no functioning government in the North needs strong representation from the head of state”, he said. He argues that “a right in Donegal should be a right in Derry” and that rights are inalienable and cannot be discounted as a matter for political consensus. “A human-rights society is a human-rights society, and someone being able to be married in the South should be able to marry in the North. Language equality is a right enjoyed in Cardiff and Edinburgh and should be enjoyed in Belfast. It’s disgraceful there is no parity of esteem in terms of citizenship in terms of Acht na Gaeilge.”

Mr Murphy said Mr Varadkar rightly champions Ireland’s outward-looking, progressive nature around the world, “but we are Irish citizens too”.