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Continued EU funding for peace process key in special status: O'Neill

By David Young, PA

EU funds should continue to support peace building work in Northern Ireland post-Brexit, Sinn Fein has said.

The maintenance of funding streams that have paid for reconciliation initiatives is a key plank of the party's vision of special designated EU status.

Stormont Sinn Fein leader Michelle O'Neill said the issue of whether Northern Ireland would make a financial contribution to the EU as part of any deal would have to be worked out.

Sinn Fein has published a policy document outlining what special status might look like ahead of Saturday's special meeting in Brussels when the EU's negotiating position will be agreed.

Mrs O'Neill said there was a willingness within the EU to continue to support peace projects here.

"Europe has very much been a friend of the north of Ireland, very much been a friend of Ireland," she said.

"If you look down through the peace process they have been very supportive in terms of peace funds and I think there is a recognition out there within Europe that they want to continue that support.

"What that looks like has all to be discussed as part of the negotiations."

Mrs O'Neill said that the EU position should include a declaration that Northern Ireland must retain special status.

"Brexit is bad for our economy, it undermines our peace process, and it denies the democratic wish of the people who voted to remain in the EU and will create a hard border," she said.

Under the party's plan, Northern Ireland would also:

  • Have laws that reflected the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • Retain access to the single market and customs union, with full freedom of movement of goods, people and services.
  • Be subject to EU employment rights and the jurisdiction of the European Court.
  • Have a right to send Stormont ministers to certain Council of Ministers meetings.
  • Retain a form of political representation in Brussels, with EU citizens living in the region having the right to vote in European elections.

Mrs O'Neill called on Dublin to adopt the call for special status as its position entering Brexit talks.

"There is widespread support for such a position north and south and the Irish Government should now adopt it as its formal negotiating position and use their strength in the forthcoming European negotiations to make it happen," she said.

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