'We’ll back open border for Ireland regardless of our own Brexit deal' - Nicola Sturgeon makes historic address to Seanad Eireann
Scotland will back the retention of an open border on the island of Ireland regardless of what deal they get during the Brexit negotiations, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said.
In a historic address to the Seanad, the Scottish leader said her government “knows and understands how vitally important it is to maintain an open border”.
“Regardless of what agreements may be reached elsewhere on these islands, we will support unequivocally an open border here.
“We fully understand that for reasons of geography, history and the simple preservation of peace, Ireland's circumstances demand close and particular attention,” she said.
In return Ms Sturgeon asked that Irish politicians “hold out the hand of friendship” as her country tries to battle against being taken out of the EU and in particular the single market.
During the final engagement on her two day trip to Dublin, she said that if Scotland is taken out of the EU under bad circumstances the option of another referendum on independence could be triggered.
“Scotland's experiences in Europe has not been identical to Ireland's. We are not an independent member state yet,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon was “incredibly touched” by the response from senators, with representatives from Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party and Independents spoke in favour of Scottish independence.
In her address Ms Sturgeon said “none of what lies ahead will be easy but then nothing about Brexit is going to be easy”.
“We are living in unprecedented times and those unprecedented times require imagination, open minds and fresh thinking,” she said.
“It was clear from both discussions that Brexit is the greatest foreign policy challenge Ireland has faced since it joined the European Union.
“For Scotland too, we know that how we and, indeed, how the UK as a whole responds to the vote in June will divine us for generations to come,” Ms Sturgeon added.
She also spoke about the migration crisis and the problems facing politics across the world.
The Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader echoed the words of President Michael D Higgins who addressed the Holyrood parliament in June.
“He talked about the consequences of unsustainable economic models which have fomented instability and widening inequalities. In my view, Brexit is one of those consequences.
“There are many different causes of the UK's vote to leave the European Union and we will no doubt be analysing and debating those causes for many years to come,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon said a lot of people have “entirely legitimate” concerns about the EU which is “after all an imperfect organisation”.
But she said the Brexit result was “also a product of inequality, of disillusionment with the established order, of a sense of alienation and disenfranchisement”.
“After all, if people do not believe and feel that they are benefitting from the status quo, we cannot be surprised if they choose not to vote for the status quo.”