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17 February 2017

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Taoiseach’s rejection of Dáil vote on North special status within EU ‘a grave mistake’ – Gerry Adams

TAOISEACH ENDA KENNY’S rejection of the Dáil vote on Thursday on a composite motion from Sinn Féin and Fianna Fáil which calls on the Irish Government to negotiate for the North to be designated a special status within the EU is “a grave mistake”, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams has said.

He was speaking at Friday’s All-Island Civic Dialogue Conference in Dublin Castle, where he was accompanied by Michelle O’Neill, the Sinn Féin leader in the North, and Martina Anderson MEP from Derry.

“Without such a designation, a hard border is inevitable,” Gerry Adams said.

The Sinn Féin leader called for publication of a White Paper on Brexit outlining the Irish Government’s strategic policies and economic, trade and political objectives.

Brexit Alternative

“Since we last met in November, British Prime Minister Theresa May has published the British Government’s White Paper outlining their approach to the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. They are now expected to trigger Article 50 within weeks.

“I agree with the Taoiseach’s assessment that Brexit poses unprecedented political, economic and diplomatic challenges to peace and prosperity on our island. However, Mr Kenny’s rejection of the proposition that the North be afforded a special designated status within the EU is a grave mistake. Without such a designation, a hard border is inevitable.

“I very much welcome the vote in the Dáil calling on the Government to negotiate for the North to be designated as having special status within the EU. Tá mé tar éis é sin rá le tamall anuas.”

2017 Martina Anderson MEP, Gerry Adams TD and Michelle O’Neill at Dublin Castle

Martina Anderson MEP, Gerry Adams TD and Michelle O’Neill at Dublin Castle

The TD for the Border county of Louth also pressed the Taoiseach for clarity about media reports on Wednesday that the Government is scouting sites for customs posts after a ‘hard Brexit’.

When he asked the Taoiseach about this in the Dáil, however, Enda Kenny replied: “I hope nobody is looking for sites along the Border.”

But when Pearse Doherty pressed Finance Minister Michael Noonan on this, he replied that Revenue is engaged in contingency planning.

“The Taoiseach again yesterday said he ‘didn’t know’ of any such plans,” Gerry Adams said.

Border Communities Against Brexit group

“As a matter of urgency, the Government needs to give clarity on this issue. The Taoiseach also needs to publish a White Paper on Brexit as soon as possible.

“Farmers, the fishing industry, the tourism sector, the building industry, local businesses, and all of those hoping to invest and create jobs want certainty from our government. So that means the Government laying out a clear, proactive position to the British Government – to other EU member states, and to all of the other stakeholders involved, including the people in this room and throughout the island of Ireland.”

The Sinn Féin leader said the Irish Government cannot continue merely react to what the British Government say or what it may or may not do, “or, worse still, repeating the British line with an Irish spin on it”.

Michelle O'Neill & Gerry Adams 17 Feb Civic Dialogue

Michelle O’Neill and Gerry Adams at the All-Island Civic Dialogue Conference in Dublin Castle

The Irish Government has to fight its corner as every other EU member state does. That means forging new relationships and making new allies within the EU.

“There is also an opportunity and a need to reform the European institutions, including the strengthening of the role of smaller member states within it. That has been Sinn Féin’s consistent position. That must be an objective of our Government.”

He reminded the Taoiseach of his Mansion House speech this week on Brexit when he referred to the fall of the Berlin Wall and it ended definitely the border that had divided Europe for decades.

“It would be cruelly ironic if it was here in Ireland that EU borders and customs posts and division would re-emerge – that a new European frontier would run from Dundalk to Derry.

“That must be avoided at all costs.”

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