It’s getting hard to remember politics before Brexit, a word that did not even exist prior to 2012. It has come to dominate British and Irish politics, with our own local political stalemate firmly relegated to a secondary concern for political leaders into the forseeable future.
Concerns about the backstop and a hard border have tended to dominate much of the discussions in an Irish context, overshadowing many of the other concerns that exist with regard to how Brexit can lead to a loss of entitlements and rights taken for granted through EU membership. I spoke about some of these issues recently in a podcast with the Think32 group here.
The group (myself included) behind the civic nationalist letter, published in The Irish News last November, have organised a conference for the Waterfront Hall next Saturday 26th January at which many of these concerns will be discussed and explored by panellists and senior politicians from a range of political parties throughout the country.
The event is free and is open to all, though registration is recommended at this eventbrite page. So far, in excess of 1,000 people have registered, indicating the level of interest.
The list of speakers and running order is included above.
A particular focus for the group remains on the attitudes and policies of the Irish government. As the sovereign government purportedly representing the interests of Irish citizens residing in the north of Ireland, ensuring that Dublin understands, articulates and lobbies for the rights and entitlements of Irish citizens as EU citizens post-Brexit remains a key issue.
To date, the Irish government has proven very effective at making the case for Northern Ireland to be treated as a special case with the EU. The backstop provision within the Withdrawal Agreement is testimony to their success, though in a strategic sense, that was a priority serving the interests of the southern Irish state.
One of the immediate legacies of Brexit has been the explosion of interest in obtaining Irish passports (and thereby securing Irish citizenship) for people within Great Britain and many from outside of the nationalist community within Northern Ireland. This is likely to continue, not least if negotiations over the coming period of months and years lead to a situation within which Irish citizens residing in the north continue to avail of certain rights and entitlements courtesy of Ireland’s membership of the European Union. At the same time, opinion polls consistently show how Brexit has transformed the attitudes of many people to the constitutional question.
In any case, there is much to discuss and an impressive list of contributors. It all begins at 11am and should wrap up for 2pm so feel free to register and come along!