All-island forum on Brexit meeting in Dublin

Posted By: November 02, 2016

Gareth McKeown.Irish News (Belfast). Wednesday, November 2, 2016

An all-Ireland forum on Brexit will take place today in Dublin without First Minister Arlene Foster and the biggest party in the north, the DUP.

The all-day event in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham has been organised by Taoiseach Enda Kenny to discuss the fall-out from the EU referendum result, but unionist parties will be absent from talks.

Mr Kenny has said the ‘civil dialogue’ will facilitate an all-Ireland conversation among the business community, wider civic society and politicians.

Invitations were extended to civic society groups, trade unions, business people, non-governmental organisations and the main political parties on the island, with Sinn Féin, the SDLP and the Alliance Party due to attend from the north.

Mrs Foster declined the invitation insisting she had better things to do than listen to a lot of “grandstanding remoaners.”

Ahead of the conference Sinn Féin said the first minister had a “duty” to attend.

Deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald said Mrs Foster should reconsider her stance.

“She should be there, maybe she will reconsider. Maybe the DUP will reconsider and participate in this,” Ms. McDonald said.

“I think they have a duty to do so because obviously, Arlene is the first minister, but also because they recommended Brexit as their preferred option.”

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, who will be in attendance, said the Brexit forum was “hugely important.”

“It is crucial that the Irish government represents the national interests of all Irish citizens, of the economies north and south, and safeguards the advances of the Good Friday and other agreements,” he said.

Sinn Féin will be represented at the talks by leader Gerry Adams, Ms McDonald, Mr McGuinness and MLA John O’Dowd.SDLP leader Colum Eastwood, MLA Claire Hanna and MP Mark Durkan will attend on behalf of the SDLP.

Mr Eastwood called for an “Irish solution to a European problem.”

“The Irish government has a very important role to play in the upcoming negotiations and it is incumbent on them to defend the interests of all the people of Ireland,” he said.

“In that respect, this dialogue represents a real opportunity to coordinate and ensure the north remains at the top of the government’s priorities,” he said.

The Alliance party will be represented by leader Naomi Long and newly appointed Brexit spokesman Stephen Farry.

“Alliance will be the largest non-nationalist party represented at this forum but this is wider than unionism and nationalism,” Dr Farry said.

“The issues facing us all around Brexit need to be approached on a pragmatic basis, completely separate from distinct constitutional issues.

The Ulster Unionist Party will not be involved in today’s discussions, but confirmed members of the party would meet the taoiseach and foreign minister Charlie Flanagan in Belfast on Thursday.

“The Ulster Unionist Party already have our own advisory panel on Brexit and therefore we are not into unnecessary duplication,” a spokesman said.

“We do realise, however, that of the remaining 27 member states, the Republic of Ireland is likely to be our best ally and advocate in terms of understanding the particular situation Northern Ireland will find itself in,” they added.

TUV leader Jim Allister described the Dublin event as a “farce.”

“Brexit is an issue for her majesty’s government and frankly Dublin should mind its own business. TUV will, of course, have nothing to do with this farce,” he said.

A Sinn Féin spokesperson said: “It is normal for ministers to be briefed by INI on overseas visits where there is the potential to attract investment.

“Martin McGuinness will travel to the United States next week and will receive specific briefings from INI during the course of the visit.

“If individual ministers are travelling abroad it is obviously not possible to conduct joint briefings .

“However any politically sensitive or significant briefing given to the first minister would normally be shared with the deputy first minister.
“If such a briefing was provided, we will be asking why this was not shared.”