Almost 5,000 sign petition calling for peace status
Almost 5,000 people have signed a petition calling for Northern Ireland to stay in the EU after Brexit.
It was started by Women's Coalition founder and peacemaking expert Jane Morrice, and proposes that the country be granted honorary membership of the bloc as a European place of global peacebuilding.
Ms Morrice is a former head of the European Commission in Belfast and was deputy speaker of the Assembly after it was established in 1998.
She said: "This is about peace, not Brexit. It's about awarding Northern Ireland honorary EU association as a European place of global peacebuilding to protect the peace process and promote peacebuilding worldwide.
"It's about creating an EU-led global peace initiative modelled on the EU Peace programme in Northern Ireland, reflecting the success of Erasmus, joining the dots of all other EU actions in conflict zones, setting up a European centre of peacebuilding in Belfast and launching a path of peace from Northern Ireland to Nicosia, named the White Dove Way after our own Columbanus, the patron saint of unified Europe."
Her petition called on leaders including Prime Minister Theresa May, European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar to grant the special status.
More than 4,700 people have signed it so far.
Ms Morrice added: "While the referendum has thrown another cloak of division over politics in Northern Ireland and instability over much of our economic life, there is little doubt that economically, socially and politically, Northern Ireland stands to lose more than any other part of the UK if Brexit goes ahead.
"The political and cultural division between green and orange, British/Irish, pro and anti Brexit is destined to grow wider as divorce day approaches and the sword of Damocles drops on the border dividing us even further." Honorary EU association would retain the status of Northern Ireland as part of the EU, part of the UK and part of the British-Irish and North/South councils in keeping with the Good Friday Agreement, the petition said.
It added the move would respect the will of the people of Northern Ireland who voted to stay in the EU, keep the Irish border open and recognise the rights of those who wish to retain EU citizenship as British and/or Irish citizens.