29/06/2016

Govt To Address 'Real And Genuine Concerns' Of Northern Ireland

The Irish Government will address the "real and genuine concerns" of people in Northern Ireland in relation to the outcome of the UK referendum, the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charles Flanagan, has said.

Speaking in the Dáil, Minister Flanagan, said: "During the course of the referendum campaign, the Taoiseach and I both pointed to the importance of Ireland's and the UK's shared membership of the European Union for the progress that has been made in Northern Ireland over recent decades – not least the tangible practical support that the EU provided for building peace and reconciliation on our island.

"I am therefore very conscious of the serious implications for Northern Ireland of the UK's referendum decision. The fact that 56% of those who voted in Northern Ireland to remain are now faced with the prospect of their preference being set aside as a result of the overall result across the UK raises profound issues, as it does in Scotland."

Minister Flanagan said that he was aware that there was many people, "both of the nationalist and unionist traditions", concerned that it will find itself outside of the European Union and deprived of the EU scaffolding that has provided such support for the progress made on this island over recent decades.

"These are very real and genuine concerns and the Irish Government intends to address them with a spirit of determination and responsibility," the Minister added.

"The key reassurance I can provide is that, irrespective of Friday's result, the Good Friday Agreement remains the template for political relationships on this island and between these islands. When I spoke to the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Friday, we both agreed that this foundational international agreement remains the basis for the two Governments' approach to Northern Ireland. Friday's result does not in any way diminish the centrality of the Good Friday Agreement or the two Governments' commitment to uphold it. As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday and succeeding Agreements, the Irish Government is determined that its institutions, values and principles will be fully protected.

Regarding calls for a border poll, Minister Flanagan stated:

"Rather than focus on a border poll, I believe that our immediate strategy should be to sit down with the British Government and with the Northern Ireland Executive and to urgently discuss how collectively we are together going to protect the gains of the last decades and to prevent the worst effects of a UK departure from the EU."

(MH)

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