Taoiseach urged to work towards securing special status for the North

Sinn Féin has again warned that a hard border would threaten the Good Friday Agreement

Taoiseach urged to work towards securing special status for the North

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at The Ark in Dublin as the next phase of a Childcare Awareness Campaign was launched | Image: RollingNews.ie

Sinn Féin has called on the government to work towards securing special designated status for Northern Ireland within the EU.

The party’s spokesperson on Brexit, David Cullinane welcomed recent comments from the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in which he again insisted that the Irish government is opposed to any form of economic border on the island of Ireland – or between Ireland and Britain.

Speaking at Queen's University during his first trip to Belfast as Taoiseach, Mr Varadkar said the Good Friday Agreement cemented the right of the people of Northern Irish to be Irish, British or both – and as a result European.

He warned that those rights must remain following Brexit, making the North “truly unique” and requiring “unique solutions if we are to preserve and protect all that we've gained.”

He went on to suggest that should the UK leave the customs union, a new EU-UK customs union could be created - along similar lines to the agreement that is in place with Turkey.

Good Friday Agreement

Speaking today, Deputy David Cullinane said a hard border would threaten the Good Friday Agreement and the progress of the past 20 years - but also the future economic prosperity of our Island.

“The British government is pressing ahead with Brexit in the full knowledge that it is incompatible with the Good Friday Agreement,” he said. “And they are doing so with the full parliamentary political support of the DUP.”

Sinn Fein Brexit spokesperson David Cullinane TD on the plinth at Leinster House, 28-07-2017. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

He noted that the people of Northern Ireland voted to remain in the EU by a near 6% majority.

“The Tories and the DUP are refusing to listen to them,” he said. “They are pressing ahead against the wishes of the majority of parties and the interests of citizens in the North.”

“In order for the whole island to stay in the EU together, designated special status within the EU for the North is vital.

“This would ensure that an EU border is not imposed across Ireland. It would ensure continued access to the European Court of Justice and safeguard the rights of Irish citizens’ premised on the European Convention of Human Rights.

“In this they will have the support of all parties in the Dáil and will deliver a solution for the whole nation, our people, and the economy.”

Brexit talks

Mr Cullinane’s call comes as the former head of the British diplomatic service warned that Brexit negotiations have not begun "promisingly" adding that the UK side has been "a bit absent."

Simon Fraser, former chief mandarin at the British Foreign Office said Cabinet splits have made it difficult for Britain to have a clear position.

A spokesperson for British Prime Minister Theresa May said Downing Street "disagrees strongly" with Mr Fraser’s comments adding that talks have been "constructive" so far and "important progress" has been made.