Brexit opposed parties in NI look to Government, EU to protect peace process

People of North being ‘used as pawns in a political game’, says Michelle O’Neill

From left to right: SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, Alliance Party’s Naomi Long and Green Party’s Clare Bailey in the meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire

From left to right: SDLP’s Colum Eastwood, Sinn Féin’s Michelle O’Neill, Alliance Party’s Naomi Long and Green Party’s Clare Bailey in the meeting with Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney in Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire

 

Northern parties opposed to Brexit are looking to the Irish government and the EU to protect the gains of the peace process and the Belfast Agreement, their leaders said on Thursday after meeting the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney at Iveagh House.

The Sinn Féin deputy leader and deputy First Minister Michelle O’Neill said that the people of the North were being “used as pawns in a political game between the British Government and the EU”.

Mr Coveney offered the leaders assurances that the Irish Government would seek to defend the interests of the people of Northern Ireland and peace agreements, the leaders said.

“What we’re asking for is very simple: we’re asking for the British government to grow up,” the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said.

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“The threat of no-deal should be taken off the table,” he said.

Alliance leader Naomi Long said that a no-deal scenario would threaten security co-operation between the North and Dublin. She said that the British government was “trashing its reputation” throughout the world.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney meeting leaders of Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party in Northern Ireland at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House, Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire
Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney meeting leaders of Sinn Féin, SDLP, Alliance and the Green Party in Northern Ireland at the Department of Foreign Affairs in Iveagh House, Dublin on Thursday. Photograph: Tom Honan/PA Wire

‘Up in the air’

Green leader Claire Bailey said that Mr Coveney had given them assurances that the Withdrawal Agreement would be upheld, though the leader were fiercely critical of the British Government’s apparent willingness to break the agreement.

Ms O’Neill said it was “less than 100 days before the end of the transition period and everything is still up in the air”.

She said a no-deal was “a very real possibility at this stage”.

“What is the British government strategy in all of this? Are we just being used as pawns in the middle of their negotiations strategy? Either way, this is catastrophic for our economy.”

Mr Eastwood called on the British government to withdraw the Internal Market Bill, which threatens to set aside parts of the withdrawal agreement.