With the Northern Ireland First Minister over-praising a letter of acknowledgement from the UK Prime Minister, and the deputy First Minister sounding off [again? – Ed] about his lack of trust in “this British government”, it’s worth noting this exchange between Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams in the Dáil yesterday high-lighting the dysfunctional approach of the NI Executive to the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. From the Dáil record 18 Oct.
[The Taoiseach:] I want Deputy Adams to understand that this is not just about any one party; it is about our island and our people. I have addressed some of Deputy Adams’s questions previously. However, I will say this much to him – when we get to the North-South Ministerial Council on 18 November, I need to know what it is that we are talking about in respect of the Executive of Northern Ireland, because we are not going to get any specific or particular circumstances right unless we know. If there is a division of opinion about what Northern Ireland wants, I cannot sort it out unless there is consensus and agreement on what the horizon or objective is on the part of the Executive in the North. Deputy Adams’s party can help to realise that.
The issues that will be part of the discussion and negotiations are already framed in the contingency work that the Government and my Department have been involved in since before the Brexit vote. I outlined for Deputy Martin last week some of the measures contained in the budget and other measures to help small and medium-sized enterprises where currency fluctuations are causing difficulties and where confusion from the consequences of statements being made leads to a certain degree of instability and lack of certainty.
In the same way, when Article 50 is triggered and we get to the North-South Ministerial Council, all Ministers will have had discussions with their counterparts. However, I need to know what it is that the Executive in Northern Ireland is actually seeking. If there is a division of opinion, it is not going to help anyone’s case or help to make the case for the particular circumstances that apply, including the need for no return to a hard border, the continuation of the peace process and support for it from the European Union, as well as the opportunity for us to work with the citizens of Northern Ireland in the context of the development of the island economy that we know we can have in the time ahead.