Minister Flanagan calls on unionist parties to attend Brexit forum

Around 300 representatives from North and South are meeting to discuss the impact of the UK vote

Minister Flanagan calls on unionist parties to attend Brexit forum

Charlie Flanagan. Image:

The first all-island Brexit forum takes place today, with Minister for foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan calling it "the first of many".

The forum at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham was called by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, and sees figures from the worlds of politics, business and culture discussing their concerns about Britain’s impending exit from the European Union.

The Minister is also appealing to the main unionist parties to attend the forum, having previously dismissed the all-island civic dialogue as a "talking shop".

The North’s first minister, DUP leader Arlene Foster, said the event will be full of anti-Brexit voices, or "remoaners".

The North’s deputy first minister, Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, party leader Gerry Adams, and Sinn Féin deputy leader Mary Lou McDonald will attend today. Sinn Féin and others have called on unionists to attend the event in Dublin, reiterating that the majority of the electorate in the North voted to remain in the EU in the June referendum.

Ms McDonald said: “She [Arlene Foster] should be there. Maybe she will reconsider, maybe the DUP will reconsider and participate.

“I think they have a duty to do so. If they have a point of view, they should be in Dublin articulating it.”

Ms McDonald says the event will not be a talking shop.

“This isn’t a case of North versus South, this isn’t a case of orange versus green, it is perhaps one of the biggest political challenges we will experience in our lifetimes,” she said.

IBEC, the largest business representative organisation in the country, says Brexit brings with it "opportunity" as well as concern for the future. 

"There will be many challenges for both economies, but Ireland the UK have a very strong history of business nad trading," Director of Policy Fergal O'Brien said. "Because of Brexit, I think these links might grow stronger."

Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O'Connor is due to meet Prime Minister Theresa May today to discuss the importance Ireland's economic relationship with the UK, as well as the Brexit vote.

The Minister said she will “emphasise the importance of the Brexit negotiations, taking full account of the impact on Ireland in relation to the economic and employment context, and our desire to avoid the introduction of customs or trade barriers."