Saturday 25 March 2017

Taoiseach: It is in Ireland’s interest that UK remains 'central part of the EU'

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny (left) and Prime Minister David Cameron hold a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street, London. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny (left) and Prime Minister David Cameron hold a joint press conference at 10 Downing Street, London. Photo: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

By Lise Hand in London

The Taoiseach said that it is in Ireland’s interest that the UK remains “a central part of the EU” and that the Irish government “will be as supportive as we can be” in the run-up to a referendum on Britain’s future membership of the European Union.

The Taoiseach was speaking in London following a meeting with the British Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street today with a range of issues on the agenda, including their first major discussion on the British referendum on its future membership of the EU, also the impasse between Greece and the EU and the prospect of a looming ‘Grexit’.

Mr Kenny said, “The prime minister explained his approach to the UK position on Europe, and I reiterated our view that it is important for the UK to remain an active member of the EU,” adding, “I’m not focussed at all on a negative consequence.”

Mr Cameron said, “It’s right to have this referendum from Britain’s point of view. I want Britain to stay in a reformed European Union. This is going to take time, it’s a complicated process, that’s in the nature of a complex renegotiation. What I’m driven by is the British national interest”.

No date has been set for the referendum, but it seems likely that it may be pushed out to 2017.

However, the narrow outright majority won by the Conservative Party on May 8 last has made an EU referendum before the end of 2017 a certainty, amid growing concerns about the fallout for Ireland. This week, European Affairs Minister Dara Murphy confirmed that Ireland is making contingency plans to deal with a British exit from the European Union, in the wake of reports that the world’s largest hedge funds managers are considering moving thousands of jobs out of London and Edinburgh if there is a No vote in the referendum.

Today’s talks come amid a flurry of such meetings by Mr Cameron with all his EU counterparts in recent days in advance of the EU Council meeting in Brussels next week which will deal with the British referendum as part of the agenda. As well as meeting with the Taoiseach, the prime minister also held talks with the president of the European Union, Martin Schultz, and will later fly to Ljubliana to meet the leader of Slovenia.

Also on the agenda for the meeting of the two leaders in London today was the continuing deadlock over the finances of the devolved administration in Belfast where the lack of agreement between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin on welfare cuts is threatening power-sharing in the North.

Earlier in the day Mr Kenny visited the Whispering Hope Centre in London which was set up to provide advice and support for Irish survivors of institutional care, including the Magdalene Laundry women.

Hackney councillor and chair of the centre’s Trust, Sally Mulready said, “We’re delighted he’s coming to us. The women see it as an opportunity to thank him for his faith in us. When he delivered his speech in the Dáil three years ago he removed the stigma of being a Magdalene woman,” she said. “Now it’s about moving forward, about reconciliation and forgiveness”.

Addressing the audience which included 30 women from the laundries, the Taoiseach told them, “You suffered from the so-called certainty of the State,” adding that meeting with the women in 2012 had made a “powerful impact” on him. The Taoiseach also confirmed that the Cabinet had this week signed off on providing £150,000 in further funding to allow the centre to continue its work in helping the survivors.

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