Forum should not be stalled

Posted By: July 05, 2016

Irish News (Belfast). Editorial. Tuesday, July 5, 2016

The meeting in Dublin yesterday of the North-South Ministerial Council was the first opportunity for the Irish government and Stormont leaders to discuss the seismic political shift that has resulted from the UK’s vote to leave the European Union.

In this period of widespread uncertainty, it is important that those who will be most directly affected by this shock decision have an opportunity to talk about the implications for all parts of Britain and Ireland.

Certainly, there has been a particular focus on the fallout from this vote in Westminster, where the main parties are deeply divided and in disarray, and in Scotland, where SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has signalled the issue of Scottish independence could be back on the table.

The repercussions for Ireland, north and south, are no less profound.

Northern Ireland – like Scotland – voted by a substantial majority to remain in the EU. Unlike Scotland, the north has a land border with an EU member state which is also a hugely important trading partner.

At the weekend Taoiseach Enda Kenny backed calls for the establishment of an all-island forum to discuss the far-reaching consequences of a British withdrawal from Europe.

Sinn Féin and the SDLP also supported such an initiative, recognising that the unprecedented challenges that face us in the weeks, months and years ahead cannot be dealt with in isolation.

As Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness pointed out, a forum would allow a range of sectors including business, tourism and agriculture to put forward their views on the post-Brexit arrangements.

However, First Minister Arlene Foster believes there are already mechanisms in place to discuss cross-border issues.

The taoiseach did not raise the forum plan during yesterday’s meeting but it is a good idea which should not be stalled by the DUP.

There are many matters of mutual interest that need to be fully explored as we move into what is uncharted territory for all of us, north and south.