20 February 2018
Prominent citizens call on Taoiseach to defend rights in north
"How can we as citizens in Donegal or Louth sit idly by when rights enjoyed by us are denied to our neighbours, families and friends in Derry or Armagh?" - Letter to An Taoiseach
One hundred prominent citizens from across the fields of art, music, literature and business have written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar calling on him to protect the rights and equality of people living in the north.
The signatories of the letter, published in the Irish Times, called on the Taoiseach and the Irish government to live up to their responsibilities as co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement in respect of the rights of Irish citizens in the north.
Those who have signed the letter include author and historian Tim Pat Coogan, actor John Connors, singer and senator Frances Black, artist Robert Ballagh and singers Christy Moore, Glen Hansard and Damien Dempsey among others.
In the letter, the signatories call on the Taoiseach to act to defend and rights of Irish citizens in the north.
They state they are "shocked at the level of permanent inequality in respect of access to rights that people in the North are expected to endure.
"In summary, these are: marriage equality, language equality and access to justice before a court of law."
The letter writers also state that people in the south cannot tolerate a denial of rights to citizens in the north. "How can we as citizens in Donegal or Louth sit idly by when rights enjoyed by us are denied to our neighbours, families and friends in Derry or Armagh?" they ask.
The signatories appeal directly to the Taoiseach to ensure "equality, human rights and respect afforded to Irish citizens in the south are enshrined as inalienable rights in the north."
The initiative follows a similar letter signed by almost 200 prominent nationalists from across the North to An Taoiseach in December which also called on him to defend the rights of people in the north.
The Taoiseach had previously pledged that northern nationalists would not be left behind by an Irish government ever again and since then has been repeatedly been challenged by republicans and nationalists to act on that pledge.
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An initiative for dialogue
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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures