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Brexit poses danger for Northern Ireland progress, warn peers

By Jon Vale

Peers have warned about further suffering in Northern Ireland and the country "getting bogged down in its gruesome past" amid uncertainty over Brexit.

Lord Eames, the former Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland, said Northern Ireland would be affected more by Brexit than any other part of the UK.

Speaking during the report stage of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, he added: "What has been achieved over years that have had blood and suffering... has been remarkable in the change of relationships between the two parts of the island of Ireland".

He said that the fear of those trying to bring about reconciliation and political progress "is that if anything is done to upset the balance of those newly achieved relationships then a lot of other people will suffer".

He added: "This is much more than a question of a line of the map. It's a question that goes very deep into our understanding of the future."

Labour peer and former Northern Ireland secretary Lord Hain said the issue of "how to deal with Northern Ireland's troubled and tangled past remains toxic".

"Long-retired British soldiers are being prosecuted, provoking outrage among their families and unionists who perceive what they're seeing as an unjustified focus on the state's role in the conflict," he said. "'What about the prosecutions of former IRA assassins?' is their question.

"Both magnanimity and mutual respect is needed, otherwise Northern Ireland will get completely bogged down in its gruesome past, instead of properly supporting victims and building a new future at a time of great Brexit uncertainty."

Lord Hain had put forward an amendment to the Bill calling for the Government to guarantee people from Northern Ireland could still apply for Irish citizenship after Brexit, which would allow them to remain citizens of the EU.

Northern Ireland minister Lord Dunlop said citizenship was a matter for the Irish government and there had been no indication this would be affected after Brexit. Lord Hain then withdrew his amendment.

Belfast Telegraph

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