EU Special Status, and ignoring the Northern Ireland Assembly…

As Mick noted this morning, Micheal Martin has joined the list of party leaders calling on the Irish and British Governments to negotiate for EU special status for Northern Ireland post-Brexit.

At the recent All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, there was the Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams

Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams said in his speech that the Government needed to uphold the wishes of the Northern Ireland people and secure a special status for the region.

“The overriding and principle objective of our deliberations are in Sinn Féin’s view about securing the position of the island of Ireland within the European Union in line with the democratically expressed wishes of citizens in the north. That means openly, and meaningfully, exploring options through which Ireland in its entirety can remain within the European Union,” he said.

“There should not be a hard Brexit or a soft Brexit, our discussion should be about moving beyond the consequences of Brexit and looking at alternatives.

“A referendum on Irish unity should not be ruled out, that’s clearly Sinn Féin’s preference, but we should also look to already unique arrangements in place in the European Union.”

…and the SDLP leader Colum Eastwood…

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood also made the case for getting a bespoke deal for Northern Ireland.

“We haven’t given our consent to leave the European Union, that’s why we have to fight tooth and nail to protect the people of Northern Ireland – the 56% who voted to remain within the European Union,” he said.

“Theresa May said that she’s arguing every day for a bespoke deal for Britain, well we need a bespoke deal for Northern Ireland, we need to protect the freedom of our citizens around this island and within the European Union.”

…and the new Alliance Party leader Naomi Long.

Alliance leader Naomi Long told those gathered that her party would also support campaigning for a special deal for Northern Ireland.

“We would obviously prefer a soft Brexit, or indeed no Brexit at all, but we also need to confront the notion of a one size fits all Brexit, and in this regard we do support consideration of some sort of special status for Northern Ireland,” she said.

“What is meant by that needs to be developed over the coming weeks and months by governments, political parties, the business community, academia and civil society.

“It could see Northern Ireland as a region remaining inside the European Union or outside with some form of special recognition, a full spectrum of detailed options and scenarios should be considered.”

Which is fine…  Except that those comments all came after the Northern Ireland Assembly, on 17 October, had already rejected EU “special status” for Northern Ireland.

Now, arguably, an opposition party might have more leeway to ignore an Assembly vote than a party in Government.  But still…

Particularly when both the SDLP and Sinn Féin are party to a case heading for the UK Supreme Court in which they are arguing that the NI Assembly should have a veto on triggering Article 50 and, possibly, should also have a veto on any resultant Brexit deal for Northern Ireland.  [A ‘veto’ which everyone can then ignore? – Ed]  Indeed.

Meanwhile, the Irish Times reports today that

Sinn Féin in launching the document, Towards a United Ireland at Stormont said the only way to uphold the wishes of the people of Northern Ireland who voted by 56 per cent to remain in the European Union was through a united Ireland.

The document contends that “Brexit changes everything”.

Aha!  Which united Ireland though?  Not one with a new constitution.  Because that would could make it a successor state.  And that would require it to apply to join the EU.  At which point certain parties may have a re-think about the benefits of membership…

And that is what Enda Kenny has been talking about for some time…

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