Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson bad news for Northern Ireland and Anglo-Irish relations, says Fianna Fail leader Martin

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin
Lauren Harte

By Lauren Harte

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said Boris Johnson entering Downing Street "raises enormous fears for the future of relations" between the British and Irish governments and London's policy towards Northern Ireland.

Speaking last night at the MacGill Summer School in Glenties, Co Donegal, the Republic's main opposition party leader also accused the incoming Prime Minister of failing to show "the slightest level of understanding" about the operations of the Good Friday Agreement or the deep problems raised by Brexit.

Mr Martin, who made his comments during a debate on what form a new and agreed Ireland might take, said of Mr Johnson: "It is clear that he is single-minded in his ambition, but I don't think anyone can credibly say that he has thought through how to promote prosperity and reconciliation in Northern Ireland.

"To be honest, no one seems to know what his beliefs are in relation to Brexit, other than wanting to raise the flag of victory at Halloween.

"Three months ago he voted for the withdrawal agreement. Now he says it must be buried for ever.

"In spite of all of this and the trepidation rightly felt by people who want to protect the achievements of the peace settlement, we must find a way to work with Boris Johnson."

Pointing to the ongoing stalemate at Stormont, Mr Martin said the past two years "have seen a return to fears about the core status of Northern Ireland."

"At a time when there is an unprecedented threat to the economy of Northern Ireland and we face the reintroduction of divisive barriers, the people of Northern Ireland have been left without a voice," he said.

"We have seen the two largest parties playing to their bases on long-term status issues with rapidly shrinking common ground.

"Talk of long-term relations is empty unless we break the current cycle of growing discord.

"We already know the most important thing we can do - and that is to return to the spirit and practice which delivered the peace settlement but has largely been abandoned in recent years."

The Cork South Central TD added: "With the coming to office of a British leadership which seems to have little understanding or interest in anything to do with Ireland, other than getting through the next big vote in the Commons, we have to understand that we are at a critical point.

"We need a new urgency and ambition, or we risk at best an uncertain future of growing division and mistrust."

Earlier the SDLP's Claire Hanna told the gathering that pushing for a united Ireland on the back of Brexit would repeat the mistakes of the past century and trap an "unhappy minority".

The South Belfast MLA warned that a modern, pluralist new Ireland "will not be built on a narrow electoral win slipped through in a period of chaos".

Ms Hanna criticised political leaders for not looking to unite the nationalist and unionist communities.

She also criticised nationalism for "failing to create the conditions where the North would be an attractive - or even just plausible - proposition for the Republic in the event of a future unity poll".

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