Speaking in tonight’s Dáil debate on the draft Withdrawal Agreement relating to Brexit the Louth TD Gerry Adams expressed his concern at the failure of the draft Agreement to protect the rights of Irish/EU citizens living in the North and of the dangers Brexit poses to the Good Friday Agreement.
The Louth TD reminded the Taoiseach that last December he said that citizens in the North “will never again be left behind by an Irish Government”. Last December’s Joint Report by the ERU and British government stated that there would be “no diminution of rights” and that “Irish citizens will continue to enjoy rights as EU citizens, including where they reside in Northern Ireland”
However, this has now been deleted. That is a significant backward step. While the draft Agreement does contain a clause on rights it is not legally binding. The government should be very aware that Irish citizens in the North are very conscious of that. Recently one thousand leaders of civic nationalism reminded the Taoiseach of his commitments”.
Teachta Adams raised the fact that Irish and EU citizens in the North will not be able to elect an MEP. He asked the Taoiseach if in light of the additional two seats being allocated to the state for the European Parliament, if the government has “considered allocating them to the North?”
The Louth TD pointed out that the draft Withdrawal Agreement means that the European Charter of Fundamental Rights will no longer apply in the north, which means that certain rights will be undermined. These include “a range of social and economic rights, including workers’ rights, which people currently enjoy in the EU which will now be left to the British government’s discretion”.
The Louth TD also raised the threat posed by Brexit to the Good Friday Agreement, and in particular the failure of the British government to exercise its power in the North with rigorous impartiality. Gerry Adams said: “The British refusal to defend the rights of Irish language speakers; to protect equality and human rights for gay and lesbian citizens; to implement agreements on legacy; or to honour outstanding Agreement commitments, on establishing a Bill of Rights, and create a Civic Forum, are all evidence of the absence of ‘rigorous impartiality’.
Moreover, following Brexit the British Conservatives remain wedded to ending the role of the European Court of Justice and getting rid of the Human Rights Act which protects the equality and human rights principles of the Agreement. Brexit is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement.”
Concluding Gerry Adams proposed that in the context of Brexit Irish unity takes on a greater significance and imperative.
He said: “This is a logical, common sense outcome to the political, social and economic fractures imposed by partition but it also makes sense in the current Brexit provoked crisis. Apart from any other consideration reunification will allow for the North to again become part of the EU. Hard border? Soft border? Better to have no border at all. That’s what the government and the Oireachtas should be working for.”