Saturday 1 October 2016

Britain's 'in/out' vote poses huge challenges

Published 22/02/2016 | 02:30

Charlie Flanagan has said that Dublin cannot remain silent on the Brexit referendum Photo: Tom Burke
Charlie Flanagan has said that Dublin cannot remain silent on the Brexit referendum Photo: Tom Burke

Britain has a deal with its EU partners and the referendum date has been named as June 23. It is an important date for the future of every citizen in the United Kingdom and, indeed, for the European Union's 500 million citizens.

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But it has huge implications for this country for a number of key reasons. Britain is by far our largest trading partner. For better or worse, these two neighbouring islands for the past 1,000 years at the very least, have had a very close relationship.

Northern Ireland's unique status makes for huge direct and immediate ramifications for this jurisdiction should British voters opt to leave the EU next June.

So we must make our voices heard loud and clear in the coming months. The looming referendum date makes the production of stable government all the more desirable in this Friday's General Election.

Outgoing Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan long ago made it clear that the Dublin Government cannot, for the reasons cited above, remain silent in the upcoming campaign. There must be an effort to influence Irish people resident in Britain, Irish opinion formers in British life and British people resident in Ireland who are eligible to vote in this in/out referendum.

Already, we are disappointed to learn that the Democratic Unionist Party has come out strongly for a 'No' on June 23. This is an extraordinary stance, given the direct benefits that the EU has brought the North in both food and agribusiness, not to mention regional and social fund grants.

Then there are the EU 'peace grants', which were unleashed with great goodwill and minimal fanfare within days of that first IRA ceasefire in 1994. Between the years 1995 and 2013, this has amounted to €1.3bn.

More positively, the SDLP, Sinn Féin and Alliance are all set to support an 'In'. We look forward to Sinn Féin, as the bigger nationalist party, putting in a strong campaign in the coming months. The stakes are extremely high here.

Mr Adams must heed the Stack family's plea

Brian Stack's family has been campaigning for justice for a very long time. The prison officer was brutally shot in Dublin in 1983 and died from his wounds after 18 months of suffering, which greatly hurt his family. It took 30 years for the IRA to admit the killing.

That admission came at a meeting set up by Mr Adams himself. But more recently, Austin Stack, son of Brian and a tireless campaigner for finding the truth about his father's murder, has told us he has credible information suggesting that two senior Sinn Féin figures, who each currently hold public office, were responsible for the killing.

Austin Stack has asked Mr Adams to put his information to the pair concerned. But Mr Adams has said he will not do this, insisting that it is now a matter for the gardaí. For the rest, the Sinn Féin president excels in condemning the killing and expressing sympathy with the Stack family.

None of this is good enough. Let's recall that Mr Adams has already facilitated a breakthrough meeting and remains in a unique position to extend practical assistance to the Stack family. All of us must revere the memory of Brian Stack and all the other security force members who gave their lives.

Irish Independent

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