NI’s pro-Remain parties ‘positive’ after Dublin talks with Taoiseach

Michelle O'Neill and Colum Eastwood following yesterday's talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin.
Michelle O'Neill and Colum Eastwood following yesterday's talks with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Dublin.

The leaders of Sinn Fein and the SDLP have held “positive” talks with the Taoiseach and Tanaiste on the draft agreement for Brexit.

Michelle O’Neill and Colum Eastwood were joined by Alliance and the Northern Ireland Green Party in discussions with Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney in Dublin yesterday.

The drat Brexit deal came under a hail of criticism in the House of Commons yesterday, where only a handful of Tories spoke in favour of an agreement thrashed out in 19 months of intensive negotiations.

MPs heard that Northern Ireland had been “sold out” by Prime Minister Theresa May and the UK’s Brexit negotiators.

Mrs May was told her draft EU withdrawal agreement threatened the integrity of the UK and risked isolating Northern Ireland from the rest of the country.

The DUP’s Sammy Wilson said the deal was a case of “Northern Ireland being put on a platter as an object to surrender to the EU”.

Speaking after their meeting with the Taoiseach, Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s Northern leader, said: “We have had a very positive meeting, where we were able to seek some assurances over what has been achieved in the agreement so far.

“We set out as four pro-Remain parties with a common objective, in the first instance we speak for the majority in Northern Ireland, and we’re conscious that the DUP do not speak for the majority in the north.

“We come at it from a number of bases, firstly that we need to protect the Good Friday Agreement, we need permanency in the backstop and no room for withdrawal from the British Government, and that has been achieved thus far.

“We are broadly positive.”

Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood called on those in Westminster to consider Northern Ireland’s position in Brexit negotiations.

“I would say to the people in Westminster, I know you have your own constituencies but we have a responsibility, and I think everyone has a responsibility to avoid a hard border, this does that,” he said.

“We cannot risk the peace and progress we have made.”

Representatives of the four NI pro-Remain parties have travelled together over recent weeks to state the case for Northern Ireland, where 56% voted to stay in the EU.

The group has again appealed to unionist representatives to join them at the talks table to protect Northern Ireland’s future.

Michelle O’Neill added: “Brexit is not orange or green. It effects all of us equally.”