'Francie Brolly' bill to allow MPs like Colum Eastwood and Gregory Campbell sit in Dáil

A new 'Francie Brolly' bill has been moved in the Dáil to allow MPs like Colum Eastwood and Gregory Campbell sit and speak in the lower house of the Oireachtas.

Thursday, 20th May 2021, 10:32 am

The Aontú leader Peadar Tóibín introduced the Private Members' Bill on Wednesday saying it would be a step towards realising the objectives of the First Dáil and would allow elected representatives from every part of Ireland to represent their electors in a genuinely national parliament.

He said he was tabling the Dáíl (All-Ireland Representation) Bill 2021: First Stage in honour of the late Derry republican Francie Brolly.

"Two and a half years ago, I had a conversation with Francie Brolly about building a new all-Ireland movement. We decided we wanted to build a common-sense movement that would help unite Ireland, North and South, and the people, North and South.

Francie Brolly

"We discussed the need not just to call for referendums or hold white line pickets along the road but to take practical steps towards a convergence, North and South, and incrementally erase the border in people's lives.

"Francie Brolly was an Irish republican, musician, teacher and Gael. He was an MLA in Stormont for his beloved County Derry and Dungiven. He was a founding member of Aontú and a proud father. He sadly passed away just over a year ago and I proudly dedicate this Bill to Francie's memory," he said.

The Aontú leader said it is 'illogical that, 100 years after the War of Independence, the Tories still determine what happens in Ireland'.

He accused the ruling parties in the south of procrastination when it comes to practical measures for furthering the unification of the country.

"Demographics are changing apace, political unionism is now in the minority and Scotland is edging towards the British departure lounge. Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael talk positively about Irish unity, but like St. Augustine, they ask the Lord to make us united but not yet," he said.

He pointed to the disastrous long-term economic impact partition has had on the six counties.

"Some within the establishment parties in the South have tried to hide behind economics but London treats the North as an economic backwater. At partition, 80% of Ireland’s industrial output was from the North, specifically the counties that surround Belfast.

"Belfast was the largest city in Ireland and the North was by far the richest part of Ireland. The North has been impoverished by London’s lack of interest in the 20th century in the same way the South was impoverished by that lack of interest in the 19th century.

"The key economic difference between the two jurisdictions is that the South can self-determine economically but London’s focus is on the English home counties," he said.

Deputy Tóibín said the new 'Francie Brolly' bill will eventually allow Irish citizens in the north, who are MPs, attend the Dáil.

"There is no impediment on this Dáil to, in large part, realise the objectives of the First Dáil peacefully and without any cost. Why are we not doing it? If there is nothing stopping us taking that step, why is this Dáil refusing to do it?

"This Aontú Bill simply enables MPs elected to constituencies in the North of Ireland to sit, pose questions and speak in the Dáil on the same terms and subject to the same conditions as any other Member of the Dáil.

"It does not go as far as seeking voting rights for those MPs, because that may be a bridge too far for the Government currently, but it does go a long way in allowing for MPs in the North of Ireland to be able to represent Irish people in the North of Ireland in an Irish Parliament.

"Some day, we in Aontú want to see Deputies from west Tyrone, west Belfast, Newry and Armagh attend this Dáil but, in the interim, let us start the process where we can, where it is fully legal, where it costs nothing and where it is peaceful, to bring Ireland together North and South," he said.

The bill was unopposed at First Stage in the Dáil yesterday.