5 September 2016 Edition
Brexit would affect all 32 counties in the next year
John O’Dowd appointed Sinn Féin national spokesperson on impact of Westminster’s EU referendum
'Brexit is not just an issue for the North. Its impact will be felt all over Ireland' – John O’Dowd MLA
UPPER BANN MLA John O’Dowd will now head up Sinn Féin’s response to the “Brexit” referendum and act as the party’s main spokesperson on related issues.
Meanwhile, Raymond McCord (whose son was murdered by the unionist Ulster Volunteer Force in 1997) has lodged papers at the High Court in Belfast seeking a judicial review of the British Government’s move towards Brexit. He argues that it cannot proceed without Westminster MPs voting on it in parliament and also contends that a Brexit would undermine Britain’s domestic and international treaty obligations under the Good Friday Agreement and damage the Peace Process here.
John O’Dowd is one of the most senior Sinn Féin MLAs at Stormont and was Education Minister in the last mandate. He also served as acting deputy First Minister for a period in 2011 when Martin McGuinness contested the election for President of Ireland.
The majority of voters in the North voted to remain in the EU in June’s referendum but, as a result largely of English voters opting to “Leave”, the North faces being dragged out of the EU (as does Scotland).
Since the referendum, Sinn Féin has held a series of public meetings across Ireland, attended by party leadership figures, to discuss the impact of the vote on Ireland.
Commenting on his appointment as national spokesperson, John O’Dowd said the EU referendum has dramatically changed the political landscape.
“This referendum was brought about by the British Tory Party bowing to pressure from UKIP and racist elements. It was ill-conceived and unnecessary.
“The people of the North rejected their agenda and made it clear at the polls that they want to remain in the EU.
“The British Government now needs to respect and recognise that clearly expressed democratic position,” he said.
The Stormont Assembly member said that a Brexit would have an impact right across the island, not just affect the Six Counties.
“This is not just an issue for the North. Its impact will be felt all over Ireland. It could undermine cross-Border bodies and the co-operation created by the Peace Process. It could also entrench partition.
“As republicans we are working to dismantle partition and any strengthening of the Border would be unwelcome. An EU frontier, regardless of whether it is a hard or soft border, stretching from Dundalk to Derry, is not in Ireland’s interests.
“That is why we need an all-Ireland approach to dealing with the impact of the EU referendum.”
• British Prime Minister Theresa May meeting with Taoiseach Enda Kenny – The Brexit clock is ticking and it is time for the Irish Government to act
He noted that Sinn Féin had called on the Taoiseach to establish a national forum to discuss the implications for the island and to put in place a strategy to ensure that the democratic wishes of the people of the North are respected.
“This now needs to happen,” John O’Dowd said. “The Irish Government has a responsibility to act to defend the interests of Northern nationalists as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement.
“It is entirely likely that the British Government will trigger Article 50 – the mechanism required to leave the EU – in the New Year, so the Irish Government needs to act quickly.
“Brexit would impact on the entire island of Ireland and they need to take action now to establish a forum which involves voices from across Ireland, including political parties, trade unions, business interests and wider civic society.
“The clock is ticking and it is time for the Irish Government to act. Sinn Féin will play a full part in a national forum to defend the democratic interests of the people of the North.”
Following the referendum, Sinn Féin held a series of public meetings across Ireland to discuss the impact of the poll to allow people to have their say.
“The referendum result raises all sorts of questions, particularly around the constitutional future of Ireland. Growing numbers of people want to see a united Ireland within the European Union,” John O’Dowd said.
“It has started a debate that has fired imaginations and raised the potential for reunification among people who would not have considered it before.
“We need to see that debate being broadened out across Ireland and further afield as we think about our future place in Europe and what a united Ireland would look like.
“That debate needs to be as broad and inclusive as possible and it needs to listen to a wide range of views, including those who do not share our vision.
“Brexit is becoming the defining political issue of the age and Sinn Féin will continue to work daily to ensure the democratic wishes of the people of the North are respected.”