Tag Archives: northern ireland

Tim Farron comments on Martin McGuinness’ death

We woke this morning to the news that the former Northern Ireland Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness had died.

There is no doubt that he was a significant figure in the peace process. It was quite incredible for me to see him as part of the power-sharing executive after my childhood had been punctuated with disturbing news reports from Northern Ireland. I can’t underestimate how unachievable the current peace seemed to be at that time. It was a remarkable achievement which took a great deal of international effort. It’s one of the things that we can be rightly proud of both John Major and Tony Blair for.

Martin McGuinness was pivotal in bringing about that peace and persuading others on his side of the divide to do so and for that he deserves respect.

Tim Farron had this to say on his death.

Martin McGuinness, for all his past, became a statesman. One moment sticks with me, the remarkable – and unlikely – images of McGuinness when he shook the hand of the Queen on her visit to Belfast in 2012. This single picture epitomised the changes in Northern Ireland.

This is something I, and millions of others, are thankful for. Peace in Northern Ireland is down, in part, to his leadership of the Republican community.

The Leader of our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, Naomi Long, expressed her sadness:

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Irish Liberal Democrats and LDV St Patrick’s Day fringe at York

Theresa May dealt a blow to Ireland in her Brexit white paper when she said she wanted in effect to leave the EU customs union, confirming Brexit poses a huge threat to frictionless cross-border trade on the island of Ireland, the mainstay of the Irish economy.

The Irish Ambassador to the UK, Daniel Mulhall said last month that comprehensive customs and border checks between Ireland and Northern Ireland are not remotely possible

Northern Ireland polled more europhilic than other regions in the UK before the election. Its Remain vote of 55.7 per cent was the third strongest in the country. Nationalists wanted the UK to remain in the EU, but unionists generally wanted to leave. Sinn Féin, the SDLP, the Ulster Unionists, Alliance and the Green Party wanted to stay. The Irish government also wanted a remain vote. The DUP, the TUV and the left-wing People before Profit party backed Brexit.

As Sinn Fein and the DUP jostle for position in a new power sharing agreement at Stormont the Brexit divide has come to the fore. If the parties are unable to agree an accommodation, we may yet see a return to direct rule of the province from Westminster.

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Analysis of Northern Ireland Election results #AE17

So all the votes have been counted, the transfers shuffled and now we have up to three weeks of negotiations to see if the Northern Ireland Assembly can come together in some shape. But what was the story of the count yesterday in Northern Ireland’s second election in 10 months?

This election saw a reduction of seats in Stormont from 108 to 90, or each seat returning just 5 MLAs. The turnout was up 10% on last May at 64.8% so every party was able to claim that more people voted for them but it was how that extra 10% of voters turned out that is the real story.

The two big gainers in the vote share were Sinn Féin up 3.9% and only 1200 votes behind the DUP in the popular vote and Alliance who were up 2.1%. The SDLP and UUP had negligible shifts in vote share -0.1% and +0.3% respectively, and the DUP dropped 1.1%. But this election became a story of transfers. From the moment that the UUP leader Mike Nesbitt said he would give his second preference to the SDLP things were shaping up.

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Great result for Alliance as majority of Northern Ireland votes against Brexit

The Northern Ireland election results are now  in and they show some very encouraging trends for those of us with a liberal outlook. Our sister party, the Alliance Party of Northern Ireland, won 8 seats and got its highest vote share in 28 years. Although their number of seats stays the same at 8, in an Assembly that is 18 seats smaller, that is a major achievement. It also increased its first preference vote share by over 2%.

Voters also sent a message that they were opposed to Brexit with the biggest losers being the unionist parties, who lost 16 of the 18 seats. The DUP famously gave more than £400,000 to the Leave campaign. The impact of Brexit on Northern Ireland, particularly on the border with the Irish Republic, would be devastating as Nick Clegg wrote recently.

On her Facebook page, Alliance leader Naomi Long summed up a good night for the party:

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The PM is building a wall, and Northern Ireland is going to pay

Theresa May’s long awaited speech on Brexit was notable both for what she did say and, perhaps more conspicuously, for what she did not.

On Northern Ireland specifically, the Prime Minister declared that the maintenance of the Common Travel Area will be an important priority during the negotiation and that the UK will work to deliver a ‘practical solution’ so as to avoid a return to the borders of the past.

The practical solution posited by Mrs. May was subject to the caveat that the integrity of the UK’s immigration system must be protected. This, the Prime Minister suggests, is eminently achievable given that the CTA existed well before 1973 and the UK’s entry into the EEA.

This contrasts with remarks made immediately prior to the Referendum in June, when May claimed it would be “inconceivable” to imagine that there will not be any changes on border arrangements with the Republic of Ireland, if the UK were to pulls out of the EU.

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UK-Irish post Brexit relations

Malta assumes the presidency of the EU at the start of 2017. Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat, in setting out his priorities, has said the ‘Irish Border’ Issue must be settled before Brexit talks can begin in earnest, injecting some urgency given that talks are expected  to get underway in April next year.

Helpfully, the House of Lords EU select committee published a report this week titled Brexit: UK-Irish Relations. The report notes the special ties between the UK and Ireland and the friendship that has developed as the Northern Ireland peace process has advanced. Also noting that Ireland’s common membership of the EU has been one of the foundations of this close relationship.

The report draws attention to: the serious economic implications of Brexit for Ireland, North and South; the consequences for the Irish land border of potential restrictions to the free movement of goods and people; the
implications for the Common Travel Area (CTA) and for the special status of UK and Irish citizens in each other’s countries, including the right of people born in Northern Ireland to Irish (and therefore EU) citizenship; the potential impact on political stability in Northern Ireland; and the challenge to the
institutional structure for North-South cooperation on the island of Ireland, and East-West relations between the UK and Ireland, established under the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

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“Brexit means disaster for the people of Ireland.” Do you agree?

 

We don’t see many posts on Lib Dem Voice about Northern Ireland – maybe because we don’t have many Liberal Democrat members there. So this is an invitation to discuss the increasingly worrying impact of Brexit – and the threat of Brexit – on the economy and security of that beautiful, but little known, part of the UK where 56% voted to stay in the EU.

Martin McGuiness has been telling the media that Northern Ireland should be pressing for a special status within the EU. In The Guardian article today:

“As things sit at the moment we are going to suffer big time,” McGuinness said. “Theresa May says ‘Brexit means Brexit’, but so far as we are concerned Brexit means disaster for the people of Ireland.”

He said he was encouraged that the Democratic Unionists, with whom his party shares power in Belfast, also agreed that Ireland needed to be treated as a special case by Brussels because of the importance of the potential problems – borders, trade, peace and security – presented by Brexit.

And he added that many unionists were as unhappy as republicans at the outcome of the referendum and the risk posed by the restoration of immigration and customs borders, as well as loss of easy access to EU markets.

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