‘British prevarication and delay must stop’ – McDonald

Sinn Féin President Mary Lou McDonald’s full address to the All-island civic dialogue event in Dundalk today:

Brexit casts a very long shadow across our Island. We in live everyday with the uncertainty of Brexit, the politics of Brexit and the Brexit negotiations.

It has become the overarching context in which we discuss our future north and south.

The debate on Brexit has become familiar and common place to us all.

My concern at this point is that familiarity often breeds complacency.

To become complacent would be a huge mistake.

That is why, even now at this late stage in game, the threat to our island cannot be underestimated or overstated

Let me remind us all. The people of the north voted to remain within the EU. There is no mandate for Brexit in the north. It’s imposition is fundamentally undemocratic.

There is no good brexit, however soft.

It is bad for our economy, for trade and for prosperity.

It is bad for civic society and for the rights and entitlements of citizens particularly in the North

It is bad for our peace agreements, and progress.

The north is an exceptional and a unique place. It is a contested space, that is now at peace.

That is why it is so important that the north to remain within the single market, the customs union and within the EU.  This is not an issue of orange and green. It is a political and social necessity to protect all of our people for now and into the future.

In the lead up to the Brexit referendum, Ireland, north and south, was not a consideration. Our economy, and our agreements were to be collateral damage in the Tory Brexit debate. A Brexit at all costs.

We need to restate Ireland cannot be and will not be collateral damage in a Tory Brexit.

The EU fully recognises and supports our peace agreements and progress in Ireland. They recognise the potential impact of Brexit. They have made firm commitments to Ireland and we thank them for those and we say we wish to hold them to those commitments.

Irelands interests are shared EU interests.

The British government have taken a very cynical response. They have chosen to prevaricate and to delay.  They are perhaps seeking to use Ireland and our unique arrangements as some negotiation leverage with the EU.

That is the most cynical and reprehensible approach to politics.

In December the framework for a backstop was agreed. Since then the British Government has refused to bring forward any workable proposals.

We were told that this would be in place by March. That didn’t happen.

We are told it must be in place by June. The British government are again pushing this date back to October and perhaps beyond.

If I had one thing to say to this debate. It must be clear. We need an answer now.

The British Government need to come forward with its proposals now.

All of us who live here, north and south, in business, in civic society, all with environmental concerns, need certainty.

The prevarication and delay must stop. The British Tories cannot decide or veto the progress of these talks. We need an answer and we need it now.