Tuesday 10 December 2019
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Sinn Fein president denies new deal has created road to hard border


The president of Sinn Fein has denied suggestions that the new Brexit deal is a pathway to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mary Lou McDonald welcomed the last-minute deal, but warned that it is not a “happily ever after ending” to the Brexit story.

The new deal will see the Stormont Assembly vote on whether to stay in or opt out of the new arrangements, which come into effect at the start of 2021.

That vote will be carried out in a majority head count, and will not require the support of a majority of unionists and a majority of nationalists under the contentious “petition of concern” mechanism.

Speaking at Leinster House on Thursday, Ms McDonald said she was “pleased” that the deal ensures there is no veto afforded to what she described as “Brexiteer unionism”.

“While we welcome the fact that agreement has been reached, it’s important to remember that there is no happily ever after ending to this story,” she said.

“Brexit is bad for Ireland, both North and South.”

She made the comments after a private meeting with Irish foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney.

After poring over the deal’s details, Ms McDonald, who was joined by Sinn Fein deputy leader Michelle O’Neill and MPs Elisha McCallion and Chris Hazzard, said the deal will mean no hard border on the island of Ireland.

She added: “I know for some business organisations this idea of rolling consent and the cumbersome nature of the customs arrangements are giving rise for some concern.

“What communities and businesses need is certainty and stability.

“The majority of MLAs are of the view of remaining, and I believe support these measures.

“There is a process whereby every four years this vote will be held and I am very sure there is a majority in the Assembly for these measures.

“This happens at a time when the constitutional conversation is under way and I have no doubt that we will have a referendum on Irish unity at some stage, and I have no doubt that it is only that democratic decision that we will fully and finally address and answer the need for ultimate stability on Ireland.”

The DUP earlier stated its objection, saying the deal has “departed from the principle that these arrangements must be subject to the consent of both unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland”.

Ms McDonald described this claim as a “ruse” to reject it.

Ms O’Neill also welcomed the fact that Stormont’s consent would be provided on the basis of a straight majority vote.

“We were very clear to say that there could never be a veto afforded to the DUP, there shouldn’t be a veto afforded to anybody in this regard, because the deal itself has to be between the EU member states and the British Government,” she said.

“So yes, I welcome the fact that is the case.”

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