The Alliance Party has given the growing momentum around a People’s Vote on the outcome of the current Brexit negotiations a voice in Northern Ireland, after successfully ensuring Newry Mourne and Down District Council becomes the first to endorse the idea in Northern Ireland
An Alliance-led initiative, Councillor Andy McMurray said not only was he “delighted” to see Newry Mourne and Down take such an important decision, but that it was also welcome to see Sinn Féin recognise they’d made the wrong call on this issue, rolling back on an initial decision to block the proposal and instead helping it pass.
“This is a landmark decision for Newry Mourne and Down, not only for those who voted to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum, but for all those who voted for Brexit and are now concerned with how the negotiations are going,
“March 2019 is fast approaching and when it arrives I want to be able to say I did everything in my power to protect our local area and Northern Ireland as a whole. Across the UK more and more people are asking for a People’s Vote, to have the opportunity to pass their final judgement on what will define us for generations to come. Brexit will affect everyone and we should be looking at the detail and allowing everyone the right to have their say.
“And it seems Sinn Féin recognised this and dropped its initial reluctance to support a motion aimed at allowing those feeling frustrated with the on-going negotiations a chance to have their concerns heard.”
Cllr Pete Byrne (SDLP) described Brexit as an “oxymoron” (a contradiction) and added: “It cannot be delivered, Whatever side you are on, Northern Ireland will be impacted the most by Brexit, that is for sure. No deal means a WTO arrangement and that effectively mean a border will be in place. The referendum was based on a lot of lies. There was no talk about the Northern Ireland / ROI border back at the start of the debates. This will heavily effect businesses around the border who do not have a cash flow. The Tories are basically an inept government and I support the motion.
Cllr Glynn Hanna (DUP” described Cllr Bryne’s comments as “drivel” and said: “The people have spoken. The Irish government is using this border debate as a means to affect the Union. We are in the Union and we will remain in the Union.”However, Cllr Hanna made the first of two Freudian slips when he said – and quickly amended – “and the sooner we leave the UK the better!” to ‘The sooner we leave the EU the better’.” There was a rapturous response from the Chamber at this verbal slip, adding a bit of colour and humour to a basically tense and predictable debate.
Cllr Jareleth Tinnelly (Independent) said: “The people of Northern Ireland are being ignored.”
Cllr David Taylor (UUP) said: “The decision was taken to leave in 2016. We should respect this vote and get the best deal we can. We are being used by the ROI as a pawn.”
Cllr Henry Reilly (Independent) said: “The EU is decaying. Now because of closer political unions of its people, their voices are being heard. We are now seeing Nazis in Germany, Hungry and Greece. People are opposed the the concept of the EU. It is a very complex situation. All Unionists will agree that the EU is a treat tocohesion of the Union.”
Cllr Liz Kimmins: (Sinn Féin) said: “The people of the North voted to remain. We should be writing to the Secretary of State following this decision.”
Cllr Michael Savage said: “We didn’t want a hard border or division in our communities. This is all happening because of the selfish, strategic interest of the Tory government. We are the only viable elected administration in Northern Ireland – Stormont has virtually collapsed – in the referendum, people were asked to vote but did not understand the full implications of leaving. It was all just a parcel of lies. We need to send a resounding message that we need to protect our border communities. Let’s keep the border as invisible as possible.”
Cllr Gareth Sharvin (SDLP) said: “In the South Down constituency, 67.2% voted to remain, and 32.8% voted to leave.”
Cllr Billy Walker (DUP) said: “We’re leaving. We need to get our heads round that. The ROI will suffer the most. We all need to work together to get a proper deal. I don’t want a hard border either. The DUP has ten MP’s who will be supporting the Government. So if anyone is to blame, it is Sinn Féin as they do not take their seats at Westminster and could have voted against the government.”
Cllr Garth Craig (DUP) said: “The principle of consent is built into the Good Friday Agreement. We will be recognised as part of the UK until the majority vote otherwise.
Cllr Andrew McMurray (Alliance) summed up his motion and said: “I agree with Cllr Craig on the principle of consent in the GFA). Across the UK momentum is growing for the People’s Vote and it is only through Alliance that Northern Ireland can now add its voice to the calls.”
The motion was carried by 25 votes to 8.