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Taoiseach Enda Kenny: Brexit negotiations are key for Northern Ireland's future

Ahead of today's visit over the border, and following the all-island forum, the Taoiseach vows to put us 'front and centre' at European Union talks dealing with UK's withdrawal

By Allan Preston

Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said Brexit negotiations will be as vital to Northern Ireland's future as any peace agreements of the past.

Mr Kenny is here today to begin a series of talks with Stormont party leaders, as well as travelling to Newry and Dundalk to hear the concerns of those living in border areas.

Writing in the Belfast Telegraph, he says that, unlike peace agreements in recent decades: "The difference this time is that the outcome is not in the hands of the local parties."

Despite disagreeing with those who see Brexit as an "opportunity" for Northern Ireland, he conceded: "I do regard it as a reality."

The Taoiseach said that immediately after the Brexit referendum he raised the "specific situation of Northern Ireland" in meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande.

He also promised to work closely with British Prime Minister Theresa May "to ensure that there is no return to the borders of the past, an objective that is shared by all parties and traditions on this island".

He promised that as Ireland began Brexit negotiations "Northern Ireland and the peace process remain front and centre of our priorities".

Yesterday, the Taoiseach told an All-Island Civic Dialogue in Dublin that Brexit negotiations could become "vicious" for the UK, and believed Mrs May could trigger the exit from the European Union within weeks.

The gathering in Dublin was boycotted by both the DUP and UUP.

As one of 27 EU heads of government who will take part in the Brexit negotiations, Mr Kenny promised: "I will play my part to ensure that the hopes and concerns of everyone on this island, North and South, are fully reflected in that historic conversation."

More: Taoiseach Enda Kenny: The onus is on all of us to recognise the reality of Brexit and work together

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