Posted By: January 26, 2019




Fr. Sean McManus and Niall Murphy. Washington, D.C. 2018

Niall Murphy Waterfront Hall, Belfast. Saturday, January 26, 2019

Guím fáilte mhór oraibh uililg anseo inniu, chuig ár nócáid stairiúla, anseo san Halla Cois Cuain!

Apologies if my voice is somewhat hoarse – my voice is still recovering from Navan last Sunday, having cheered on my beloved club, St Enda’s win through to the All-Ireland final in 2 weeks’ time at Croke Park. Truly historic times for our club and community.

Our club has had a difficult and tragic past, having had 5 members murdered, including our President, our senior football manager and most recently in 2002, Gerard Lawlor, a young lad only 18. Regrettably, our experience was played out in many communities across the north.

Navan last Sunday was an assembly of members, players, children, friends, and family, including the brothers, sons, and fathers of our deceased members. Nearly 3000 people, all now joyously looking forward to a final, that had you asked any of us a matter of months ago was this a realistic prospect, we would have told you to get your head examined. We had never won anything in our 63 years in existence. But here we are, in an All-Ireland final, one hour from glory.

The unforeseen happens and can happen rapidly.

When I thought about the match during the week, it was an intersection of time and opportunity, a moment in history. Not that the past was forgotten about, it informs where we are, how we view things, value things. Life is always developing and progressing, but everything is rooted and informed by what has gone before

In a sense, no matter how far one wanders, life always turns back to where you are from.

Bruce Springsteen acknowledged this in his recent televised Broadway show calling himself ‘Mr. Thunder Road’, ‘Mr. Born to Run with white line fever in his veins’ but that he lives only minutes from his hometown, where he was born.

So where we are from is fundamental to our world view. It is the lens through which we approach our relationship with everything and everybody.

What has motivated everyone here to travel to Belfast today is our concerns about the future amidst the political turmoil in Belfast, Dublin, London, and Brussels.

For many inside, and many more outside this room, who have lived through, or were born into political conflict in Ireland, we collectively invested our future hopes and aspirations in

the Good Friday Agreement and it being implemented and thereby open up a new chapter in the history of Ireland.

The conviction of wider nationalist, democratic and progressive opinion in 1998 was that the GFA would ensure a break with the past and guarantee us and future generations peace, guaranteed rights, equality and respect in an Ireland which continued to democratically transform itself.

Nearly twenty-one years on, the GFA has still not been fully implemented. Some sections of political unionism still oppose its very existence. Many of the political fault lines within our politics and society remain unresolved. Our hard-won peace process and its political architecture have too often been taken for granted. We may have peace, but we have not seen enough progress.

When over 200 Irish citizens from The North signed an open letter to An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in December 2017 it came at the end of a tumultuous and politically defining year.

That January the Good Friday Agreement political institutions collapsed amidst the political and financial scandal of RHI. It served to confirm the growing view of Northern Nationalists that political Unionism was not committed to proper power sharing through the denial and refusal of equality, rights, and respect towards the section of the community to which we belong, rights such as:

1. Access to Justice :

  • ·  All victims of the conflict had the right to avail of mechanisms in accordance with

European defined laws, to have access to Justice.

  • ·  Compliance with article 2 of the ECHR is not an issue for Stormont, as Stormont is not a sovereign entity, Westminster is, and it is Westminster that signed the ECHR.
  • ·  That Westminster seek to then derogate from its ECHR duties, by somehow alleging that their compliance with the ECHR is a matter for political consensus at Stormont, is a deft
sleight of hand of Machiavellian proportions

2. Marriage Equality :

· Leo Varadkar and indeed the Irish Govt, rightly speak with pride in respect of the referendum vote in 2016 which brought Marriage Equality to the south.


  • ·  Marriage equality was promoted by the Irish Government as a fundamental rights issue in the referendum yet it is relegated to a matter of political consensus here. Rights are not negotiable or a matter of consensus.
  • ·  Many Americans voted for slavery but thankfully it was considered to be an abomination and was ended.
  • ·  Why is it that citizens of England, Scotland, Wales and the South all benefit from marriage equality but it is a right denied to citizens of our micro jurisdiction?

3. Language rights.

  • ·  A clear example of the DUP’s sneering contempt for parity of esteem is their sneering contempt for Acht na Gaeilge. Our language is an intrinsic part of all of our identity as citizens, yet we endure contemptuous taunts, such as Curry My Yoghurt and Crocodiles and the cancellation of microscopic bursaries for the Donegal Gaeltacht.
  • ·  The fact is that this jurisdiction is the only region in Britain or Ireland that makes no statutory provision for the protection of a minority language in accordance with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
  • ·  Irish is an official language in the Republic of Ireland, with Welsh given statutory protection under the Welsh Language Act 1993, with Scots Gaelic protected under the Achd na Gàidhlig (Alba) 2005.
  • ·  Why is it that citizens of Scotland, Wales, and the South all benefit from statutory protection for an indigenous language but it is a right denied to citizens of our micro jurisdiction?

It would seem that there can be no regulatory alignment on this island, and Bangor must be as British as Finchley unless you are gay and want to be married or seek to live a life through the medium of Irish with statutory protection.

This contempt mobilized the nationalist and Republican electorate: in turn, the unionist political majority in the Assembly was ended. Increased unionist belligerence continued, and then, the nationalist constituency sent a stark message during the subsequent Westminster election, that it was turning its back on Westminster.

However, the political process in The North had already been seriously destabilized due to the result of the EU Referendum in 2016, when a majority of people in the north voted to remain in the EU.

The British government ignored that democratic result and the emerging negative implications of Brexit became major talking points across the island.

Every report and expert assured us that there will never be a hard border in Ireland and that the Good Friday Agreement was constitutionally sacrosanct as an internationally binding agreement. Yet, within the past week, we have been told by Theresa May that the Good Friday Agreement is up for negotiation and the European Commission have confirmed that a No Deal Brexit will bring a hard border in Ireland and yesterday Leo Vardakar advised the World Economic Forum that there may be soldiers on the border.

This culmination of events and concerns motivated me and others to make the first direct public appeal in late 2017 to Leo Varadkar to stand up and speak out in defense of Irish citizens’ rights in the north.

We felt it was essential that Irish citizens in the north heard reassurance from the Irish Government that the reality of abandonment experienced by our parents and grandparents would not be visited upon our generation.

The back page of your program today carries an assurance from the Taoiseach that:

“To the nationalist people in Northern Ireland, I want to assure you that we have protected your interests throughout these negotiations.

Your birthright as Irish citizens, and therefore as EU citizens, will be protected. There will be no hard border on our island. You will never again be left behind by an Irish Government.”

This assurance cannot simply be a historical quote. It must be a living commitment. It must mean that there can be no hard border on our island. That my children will not have to endure the ignominy of being stopped at Newry or Derry when traveling to Croke Park for a match, or to Donegal for a holiday.

One of the objectives of this conference today is to assert to the Irish Government that we are their citizens, bearing their passport and that we insist on our full access to citizenship, but rights, human rights are for all. No citizen in the north should endure a diminished sense of their citizenship as a result of Brexit. Everyone benefits when rights are protected, and all traditions and communities are respected and valued.

So, I warmly welcome Minister of Education, Joe McHugh TD, here today. Minister, your presence is an important statement in itself. So too is the presence of the other main speakers, Colum Eastwood MLA, Dara Calleary TD, and Mary Lou McDonald TD.


Their collective participation reflects a public mood and urgency about the grave challenges posed by Brexit and the fundamental discontent which exists within wider nationalist and progressive opinion particularly in the north at this time.

We did not vote for Brexit. Brexit is being forced on us against our will. Just like the partition of our country 100 years ago, it is set to guarantee more political and communal division and instability.

Hence our appeal to the Taoiseach and the Irish government to redouble its efforts to ensure our rights are protected and that we will never be left behind again.

Rights are for all in society but no Party in the north be allowed to deny rights and democracy for other citizens. The denial of rights and respect and recognition of Irish identity in the north, the lack of reciprocation for reconciliation gestures by political leaders and the blocking of the political institutions as a result of all this create the context of a perfect storm in to which Brexit has plummeted as a hurricane.

Brexit does not appear as a novelty on our horizons.

In two elections, March and June 2017, northern nationalism delivered a strong message, giving its verdict on the DUP and unionism running power-sharing and partnership government into the ground.

As a result of the increased political disarray at Westminster, the infighting within the British Conservative Party and British Government, and the destructive influence of the DUP on both; coupled with the continuing political crisis and denial of rights and democracy in The north, our civic initiative decided to write to An Taoiseach again.

Last November 2018, over 1000 citizens endorsed another direct appeal to An Taoiseach and his government to act in defense of the Good Friday Agreement and citizens’ rights.

Most significantly, between December 2017 and November 2018, the nationalist discontent to which we gave popular expression has not only grown, in fact, a seismic shift has occurred within a wider nationalist opinion.

Having turned its back on Westminster in June 2017, nationalism is now looking beyond the parameters of what was the northern state.
Brexit has changed everything. Old certainties have gone.

Conversations about the future and future constitutional change are happening in unexpected places. Ireland has changed dramatically over the course of the past twenty years.

The north has been left behind. British government policy has turned it into a political and economic backwater.

The veto of the DUP and others in political unionism has blocked the development of a shared, secular society based on rights, civil liberties, and anti-sectarianism. Every single citizen in The North, and beyond, is entitled to civil and religious liberties, equality, parity of esteem and to live free from sectarian discrimination or attack and all forms of bigotry and intolerance.

This was the basis of the Good Friday Agreement. Brexit can only be characterized as a bonfire of rights. It is the antithesis of democratic and civil rights, cultural, political, and social rights.

The North being forced to leave the EU against the expressed wishes of its people is a major setback for the political process, and directly challenges the integrity of the Good Friday Agreement and will have huge consequences for protections contained within it. It also fundamentally undermines the principle of consent.

Under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement there is an inherent right for those born on this island to Irish citizenship, and by virtue of that right, citizenship of the European Union as well. It is illogical that citizens who enjoy that right would not be afforded the benefits of that citizenship.

Further to the risk of deepening the partition of our island through a hard border, Brexit threatens very real-life rights which we take for granted.

While the immediate period is deeply worrying for us all, we commend the resilience of the Irish Government and EU 27 with respect to the positions adopted. But, as I said earlier, Brexit has changed everything. It is the defining political moment of this era and of our generation.

The reality is that many of us now are looking to new constitutional and political horizons. We are looking towards the outworking of the GFA and its recognition of the absolute legitimacy and validity to aspire towards Irish Unity.

It is time for the Irish and British governments to prepare for change. Political change in relations between Ireland and Britain is now unavoidable.

We ask that the Irish government stands by An Taoiseach’s commitment of 8th December 2017. We are absolutely resolute in our determination that the GFA must now be fully implemented; that Brexit is resisted; and, that rights and democracy in The North are entrenched.

The GFA political institutions must be restored but not at the expense or risk of the GFA principles, and citizens’ rights being subordinated to the refusal of political Unionism to engage in proper power-sharing and support for a rights-based government.

The Irish government should begin to now invest the same political capital as it has committed to addressing Brexit, by facilitating an all-inclusive discussion on Irish unity and putting in place the appropriate mechanisms to enable the transition towards a new national, rights-based, constitutional democracy. This must include an appeal and assurance to unionists that they are wanted, will be respected and cherished.


Today’s conversation is about all of that. We seek to provide a space for a discussion to begin. It has to begin somewhere. And when we are told that now is not the right time, I ask then when is the right time. So, if not now, when?

Nelson Mandela once observed that

“If you wait for textbook conditions they will never occur”.

We believe this is the right time to have a conversation about the future. Failure to encourage and embrace that potential would be reckless and irresponsible.

In the challenges which will immediately confront us in the coming weeks and months, we will require a unified and coherent mobilization of broad northern nationalist and progressive voices.

Our children and new generations deserve a future better than the past which we endured. I wouldn’t have believed you, had you said a few short months ago that my small club would be in an All -Ireland final in two weeks time, but the unexpected can overtake events. I have seen how history and identity, timing and preparation and the taking of opportunity can reshape history and positively define and improve lives.

Tapaidh an déis. Míle buíochas daoibh go leir.


 Ireland will not be sacrificed in Brexit deal, EU commissioner says

Margrethe Vestager asserts Europe is unwavering in its support for the backstop

Eoin Burke-Kennedy.Irish-Times. Dublin. Friday, January 25, 2019
EU commissioner Margrethe Vestager says there is no guarantee removing the backstop element of the proposed deal will unlock the Westminster logjam. Photograph: Alan Betson
Ireland will not be sacrificed by the EU in its efforts to broker a Brexit deal with the UK, competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager has said.

Amid concerns the proposed backstop arrangement to avoid a hard border on the island of Ireland may be watered down to facilitate the UK, Ms. Vestager said the EU stood firmly behind Ireland on the issue.

“The good thing is the 100 percent, never wavering, no hesitation solidarity with the Irish situation and the Irish people,” she told The Irish Times on a visit to Dublin.

She also claimed there was no guarantee that removing the backstop element of the proposed deal would unlock the current Westminster logjam. “Before they [UK MPs] voted on the full deal, they had a vote on leaving without the backstop, and that was lost with an even greater majority against it,” Ms. Vestager said. “It’s up to the British on where they go next,” she said.

The backstop element of the proposed withdrawal agreement has been a major sticking point for Brexiteers, who fear the EU will use it to extract concessions after the UK leaves.
No-deal exit

British prime minister Theresa May believes getting rid of it or placing limitations on its implementation could garner support for the agreement and avoid a no-deal exit.

“From our side, we hope to have an orderly, managed Brexit for the good of everyone. Of course, we’ll prepare if that cannot happen,” Ms. Vestager said.

Fears that a hard border is unavoidable in the absence of a deal have grown in recent weeks amid equivocating comments from EU officials.

The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier appeared to back peddle this week on previous claims that a no-deal Brexit would “obviously” lead to the imposition of a hard border, suggesting there may be other ways of carrying out border checks.

Technological border

Ms. Vestager echoed the same sentiment, suggesting technology to avoid traditional border posts and customs checks might be used.

During her visit, she held talks with Minister for Business Heather Humphreys on how Brexit-hit businesses here could be supported.

While not ruling out the possibility of Ireland receiving a special derogation from the EU state aid rules, Ms. Vestager said there were a number of supports within the current regulatory framework that could be accessed.

However, employers’ group Ibec said the current rescue and restructuring guidelines for supporting businesses in distress were only for firms on the brink of financial collapse and would come too late for many Irish firms caught in the crosshairs of Brexit.

EU state aid rules were suspended in 2008 and 2009 to allow France and Germany and other member states support indigenous industries hit by the financial crisis.

Groundswell movement learning from Brexit mess

John Manley. Irish News. Belfast. Monday, January 28, 2019

SATURDAY’S Beyond Brexit conference surprised a lot of people, both by the numbers it attracted and the diversity of opinion represented on stage.

As has been pointed out previously, political unionism was excluded, with the organizers making it clear that initially at least, this is an internal conversation aimed at developing a consensual vision of what Irish unity might look like.

The inadvertent consequence of a growth in English nationalism, as manifested in the EU referendum result, is to have triggered a corresponding resurgence of Irish nationalism.

But whereas the recent tide of English nationalism can be characterized as xenophobic, evoking the Dunkirk spirit and pining for the lost days of the British empire, its more mature Irish counterpart is increasingly seeking to be inclusive and outward looking.

The groundswell movement that has emerged across Ireland in response to Brexit has been quick to learn lessons from the shambolic, cack-handed manner in which Britain has sought to extricate itself from the EU.

The lack of preparation for Brexit and the absence of a clear vision of what the post-EU landscape would look like has ingrained division and thwarted any agreed outcome.

Observing this chaos from across the Irish Sea and noting its potential impact on the border has led to the realization among nationalism of all shades that simply achieving a numerical majority in the north favoring unification is a clumsy route to take and one that is unlikely to result in an agreed Ireland.

As SDLP leader Colum Eastwood noted, the vision of a new Ireland needs “definition and detail.”

Belfast-based solicitor and conference co-organiser Niall Murphy opened Saturday’s proceedings by drawing parallels between the unexpected appearance of his “beloved” St Enda’s GAA club in an All-Ireland final next month and the circumstances that have reignited the widespread desire for Irish unity.

“I have seen how history and identity, timing and preparation and the taking of opportunity can reshape history and positively define and improve lives,” he said.

But Mr. Murphy also highlighted the unwelcome inconveniences that Brexit may yet give rise to, and how he is keen to avoid a scenario where his children would have to “endure the ignominy of being stopped at Newry or Derry when traveling to Croke Park for a match, or to Donegal for a holiday”.

His address clearly illustrated how the issues UK’s exit from the EU with Northern Ireland as a reluctant passenger are both micro and macro but ultimately require the same solution.

Fine Gael education minister Joe McHugh, right, stressed how Dublin had ensured the concerns of northern nationalists were the fore in the EU’s negotiations with the UK and how he’s determined to provide more certainty around the future arrangements for northern students studying in southern universities.

However, the Fine Gael government’s Brexit record to date was criticized by Irish News columnist Brian Feeney, who said a “fixation on the backstop and trade” meant the rights of Irish citizens in the north had been left behind.

“Warm words butter no parsnips,” Mr. Feeney said.

Elsewhere, in an event that was arguably too heavy on speeches at the expense of dialogue, we heard how Brexit had moved north Down obstetrician Jim Dornan from a position of “soft unionism to soft nationalism” and how those who aspire to a united Ireland were more than capable of having internal conversations while at the same time talking to unionists.

Where this project moves next remains to be seen, but it’s clear that its strength lies in the broad range of voices contributing to the debate. That inclusiveness needs to

prevail if momentum is to be maintained.

As Fianna Fáil deputy leader Dara Calleary stressed, the conversation must continue “in the community halls and around the kitchen tables” and the more people who speak, the greater the validation of their voices.



Distributed to Congress by Irish National Caucus
“The attached Editorial from the respected Irish News of Belfast is important reading for Members of Congress

who are concerned about equality, justice, and peace in Northern Ireland/The North. The recent, huge conference  in Belfast, “Beyond Brexit” demonstrated the renewed determination of Nationalists/Republicans/Catholics to never again “go to the back of the bus.”—Fr. Sean McManus
All-Ireland talks are important

Irish News. Editorial.Belfast.Tuesday, January 29, 2010
Almost every serious economist agrees that Brexit will be a disaster for all traditions in Ireland and the consequences for community relations across The North are arguably even more alarming.

It is essential that serious and measured consideration is given to a range of forthcoming options, even though it is painfully obvious that the British cabinet has been unable to come up with a coherent strategy for the withdrawal which is scheduled to take effect from March 29.

What is heartening is that, for the first time since the partition of Ireland almost a century ago, our issues have been placed at the center of European political developments and the remaining 27 EU member states, assuming that the UK really does withdraw later this year, have lined up solidly behind the position of the Dublin government.

If it was the case that northern Nationalists and Unionists could come together and demand that, at the very least, a no-deal Brexit is emphatically ruled out, a hugely powerful message would be sent to Theresa May,

Unfortunately, while nationalism in all its strands on both sides of The Border is united in deep concern over Brexit, the Unionist response has taken some much more complicated forms.

Some unionists know that a catastrophe is coming down the line, others have exercised their right to curry temporary favor with the Conservative Party at Westminster and a relatively small number are cheerleaders for the most reactionary elements of the Brexit campaign.

A full debate at a functioning Stormont assembly might have moved events forward, and it needs to be acknowledged that all sides carry degrees of responsibility for the collapse which occurred there almost exactly two years ago.

Many commentators have offered valid and credible points about the priority of engaging across the board and establishing ways of extending the hand of friendship in all directions.

However, the Renewable Heat Incentive public inquiry laid bare the specific extent of the dysfunctional and unacceptable nature of the DUP’s approach to financial management in particular and basic standards of public administration in general.

The forthcoming report from Sir Patrick Coghlin will be closely studied, and there will be a major surprise if grave criticism is not directed at some senior figures, so it is inevitable that a sweeping overhaul of DUP structures must follow before a return to devolution can start to be contemplated.

Stormont parties need to step up their dialogue in the meantime but discussions on an all-Ireland basis are equally important and should be encouraged in every way.

The gathering at the Waterfront Hall in Belfast at the weekend represented a unique coming together of the two largest Dáil groups with the two main northern nationalist parties in front of a huge and enthusiastic audience.

If some Unionists wish to align themselves with the dangerous and divisive Brexit gamble, nationalists are equally entitled to set out an alternative vision of progress through partnership at all levels.

Top Attorney Niall Murphy is the Force Behind the  Civic Nationalism in The North

Fr. Sean McManus and Attorney Niall Murphy, Capitol Hill, 2018

CAPITOL HILL.Tuesday,  January 29, 2019— Back on January 17, one of the top attorneys in the famed Kevin Winters

Law firm of Belfast predicted that the conference he was organizing would be  “most important constitutional gathering in a generation.” And on Saturday, January 26 the prediction came true. The Beyond Brexit conference was attended by 
1500 people.
Niall Murphy is a formidable man, best known for his work on behalf of the families of the Loughinisland Massacre (1994), now the subject of the film documentary No Stone Unturned.
In 2014 the Irish National Caucus hosted the Loughinisland families and Niall Murphy on Capitol Hill. And in March 2018 the Caucus arranged a meeting for Niall and Loughinisland family members in the office of the Helsinki Commission, which has held a number of Congressional Hearings on collusion in Northern Ireland. (Photo above of Fr. Mc Manus and Attorney Murphy).
The President of the Capitol Hill-based Irish National Caucus said in one of his constant Irish Congressional Briefings, distributed to Congress: “The recent, huge conference  in Belfast, “Beyond Brexit” demonstrated the renewed determination of Nationalists/Republicans/Catholics to never again “go to the back of the bus.”
Irish government completely out of touch with concerns of northern nationalists.

Brian Feeney. Irish News. Belfast.Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Saturday’s Waterfront Hall conference on “Beyond Brexit'” was not only the biggest political event in the north this century; it was the biggest political event for more than a generation.

Around 1,600 people from all nationalist parties on the island, many from no party and some unionists, gave up their Saturday at three weeks notice or less, to listen to speeches and diverse panels discussing the Ireland of the future. Many others watched the live stream on Periscope and thousands watched the replays.

Sadly, analysis of such a huge, visual media-friendly event on local TV was meager, about two minutes on Sunday’s Politics Show and thereafter nothing; what coverage there was, framed in negative terms.

That’s a pity because there were two important messages to take away from the Waterfront Hall. The first is the complete disconnect of the Irish government from the reality of northern nationalism and secondly, the complete disenchantment of nationalists with a Stormont assembly, or as Allison Morris of this parish put it in December, “Nationalists are so over Stormont, all the focus now is on a New Ireland.”

The Irish government sent a minister to make a boilerplate speech that was heard mainly in polite silence because it was so far from addressing the alienation of northern nationalists and their immediate concerns that it was a perfect illustration of the problem in Dublin. Fianna Fáil’s deputy leader made the worst speech of the day; dire, droning on and on, boring, repetitive, addressing the same stale, obsolete points as the government minister. Then of course Fianna Fáil is in cahoots with the government isn’t it, conspiring with Fine Gael to exclude Sinn Féin?

Cutting through their platitudes and padding, they both said the priority is to get an executive up and running and that there can’t be a border poll. Gutless, futile, infuriating. A merry-go-round with the same cheap, run of the mill[stuff] playing endlessly. The speakers from the south were addressing the wrong conference. They would have been applauded at the Conservative party conference because the NIO and British prime minister would have been saying exactly the same.

It has not penetrated the miasma of complacency in Dublin that the Executive has been in crisis since 2012 with interminable talks sessions every autumn since, each leading nowhere. Look, there isn’t going to be an Executive until there’s a new British government and probably not then either. The infuriating aspect is the false equivalence peddled by the Irish government. How about telling the truth for a change?

The reason there’s no Executive is because of the DUP and the British government. Sinn Féin wanted an Executive and agreed to a bad deal with the DUP to get into one and the DUP ratted on it. Sinn Féin leaked the deal, and when nationalists saw how bad it was Sinn Féin realized only then the nationalist electorate was ahead of them in rejection of the notion of an Executive run on the basis of a DUP veto on progress on human rights and nationalist aspirations. The British government, supposed to be “rigorously impartial,” backs the DUP to the hilt in this denial of rights and progress. Here’s the most telling point. The Irish government doesn’t know it was a bad deal and when told, doesn’t understand why it was bad.

Worse, northern nationalists aren’t allowed to propose a border poll if there’s a no-deal Brexit despite that being the only guaranteed route back into the EU. It’s also, as Professor Colin Harvey pointed out on Saturday, “he democratically endorsed constitutional compromise intended to underpin relationships on this island…Are people supposed to pretend there is not an anticipated and agreed solution to a hard border on this island?’ In Harvey’s words, ‘the solution that dare not speak its name?”

A border poll is “toxic, divisive, destabilizing” and worse, even though it’s enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement. However, Brexit is OK to push through, even though a majority here voted decisively against it. Is it not toxic, divisive, destabilizing and worse?

The sad truth is that you’re not allowed to suggest a Border poll, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, because the Irish government would have a collective nervous breakdown.

Nationalism conference shows how Brexit has fundamentally altered the political situation

Jim Gibney.Irish News. Belfast. Wednesday, January 30, 2019
On January 21 the Irish government marked the establishment of Ireland’s first national, sovereign, parliament – An Chéad Dáil.

It organized a joint sitting of the Oireachtas, Dáil, and Seanad and invited MPs and MLAs to the Mansion House – where An Chéad Dáil met one hundred years ago.

An Chéad Dáil assembled the representatives of the vast majority of the Irish people, under the leadership of Sinn Féin.

The joint sitting of the Oireachtas represented the vast majority of the Irish people: Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, Labour and independents, under the leadership of the Irish government.

Last Saturday in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall, a gathering of more than 1,500 nationalists met under the leadership of the civic nationalist group, ‘Ireland’s Future.’

It provided a very important platform for the Irish government, Sinn Féin, Fianna Fail, SDLP, Green Party – representing, again the majority of the Irish people, and leading figures from the nationalist community: lawyers, columnists, human rights advocates, and political activists.

One hundred years of conflicted history separated the assembly of An Chéad Dáil in Dublin and the gathering last Saturday.

The issues facing those who attended all three events was Ireland’s independence and the injustice of partition.

I have been to conferences of various kinds for over forty years.

Last Saturday’s conference was distinctively different and impressive for several reasons: the subject discussed was ‘Beyond Brexit: The Future of Ireland’ and the political breadth of those who attended and those who spoke on the platform was obvious.

This was nationalist and republican Ireland under one roof debating one issue: a new Ireland.

In my political lifetime, I have never seen an audience like this before debating the issues they did.

Nor have I seen such a mood. The loudest applause greeted any speaker who even hinted at a united Ireland, a new Ireland or all-Ireland institutions. There was no applause for anyone suggesting that The North’s institutions should be restored or that now was not the right time to call for a united Ireland or a unity/Border poll. There was, however, loud applause for speakers calling for engagement with Unionists.

The mood was upbeat, confident and optimistic with a solution-focused view of the future.

There was agreement that Brexit had fundamentally altered the political situation.

That the British government having partitioned Ireland one hundred years ago were trying again, for a second time, to partition Ireland with an economic border – a British Brexit border.

And it was doing so in exactly the same manner it did in 1919 when it ignored the democratic will of the Irish people and the democratic will of the people of the north in 2016 who voted to Remain in the EU.

In 1919 it imposed British rule at the point of a gun. In 2019 it imposes Brexit rule at the point of a DUP/Tory deal.

The primary issue at the conference was how a new independent Ireland was to be achieved and what practical steps needed to be taken to achieve it. A close secondary issue was the need for legal protection for the rights of Irish nationalists in The North including Irish language rights.

There was a crisis of equality and rights, and Irish people risked being stateless – stripped of their Irish identity and legally viewed as British not Irish.

The solutions offered ranged across the national spectrum: a new Ireland based on equality and human rights; a unity/Border poll; the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement; the restoration of the Executive and Assembly on a human rights and equality basis; the formation of an all-island civic assembly; a Bill of Rights and a new human rights treaty and continued EU representation for the people of The North by the Irish government allocating the two extra EU seats arising from Brexit to the north.

Take the fear out of the United Ireland debate; have an informed debate now about what a new United Ireland would look like before a unity/border poll; learn the lesson of the Brexit chaos – pre-plan and discuss the transition to independence.

The Waterfront Hall conference came at the end of an important week which saw the welcome arrival of Fianna Fáil in partnership with the SDLP.

Fine Gael and Labour should follow and join the rest of us in ending partition and creating a new independent Ireland.