Upper Bann Sinn Féin Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

John O'Dowd MLA Ard Fheis Speech 2017

Published: 22 November, 2017

Almost 17 months on from the people in the north voted to remain in the EU. And the British Tory party and the DUP appear determined to ignore the democratic wishes of the people and drag us out of the EU. Theresa May has shown her wish to hang onto power with support from the DUP is more important to her than her obligations to the internationally binding agreement which is the GFA.

Let me be clear, if the people of England and Wales wish to leave the EU, I respect and endorse their democratic right to do so. We wish them well, but the people of England and Wales do not have the right to vote us out. Their Government has no right to take the people of the North out against our will.

So called Brexit will be bad for the people of the North, Unionist and Nationalist. Brexit will be bad for the entire island of Ireland and all of the people of Ireland. Brexit is the most serious social, economic and political threat to the island of Ireland since the disaster of partition. We all know the detrimental impact it will have on jobs, human rights, workers' rights, business, trade etc.

Our economy, just like our population, does not exist in splendid isolation. Our collective economic future lies with relationships north, south and east and west. The threat to the economy arising from Theresa May's and Arlene Fosters Brexit cannot be over stated.

The onus is firmly on the Irish government to defend the national interests of the entire island. The people of the North, unionist and nationalist voted against Brexit. They did so because it is in their best interests.

The Irish government has a responsibility to defend that vote and to act in the best interests of all the people of Ireland. Brexit undermines the Good Friday Agreement which was endorsed by the vast majority of people on this island

The Taoiseach also has a responsibility to defend the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts. Sinn Féin believes that the only credible way forward is for the north to be give Designated Special Status within the EU and for the whole island of Ireland to remain within the EU together.

Special status would ensure the North's trading relationship with the rest of Ireland and the EU - particularly in relation to business, tourism, the all-Ireland energy market, agriculture and agri-foods - will be maintained

Special Status is about protecting the rights of citizens in the North, who have a right to Irish citizenship, and therefore to citizenship of the European Union. Designated Special Status within the EU is the position endorsed by the Dáil.

It is the solution being advocated by those living within the border communities. It recognises that the people of the North voted to remain part of the European Union. Designated special status is about the best interests of our people, our peace process and our economy. And finally, our opposition to so called Brexit and support of the democratic rights of people in the North should not be mistaken for a ringing endorsement of the current EU structures.

We should support building a Social Europe that prioritises ordinary citizens over the bottom line of multinationals, reduces inequalities, fights against social exclusion and meets the social needs of European citizens.

Just as we need a democratic new Ireland to serve all the people we need a democratic new EU which serves all the people.