MP urges better north-south relations
Relations between Dublin and London have progressed more over the past two decades than those between the Republic and Northern Ireland, a DUP MP has said.
Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said people on the island have a tendency to "retreat" and "seek shelter in our own identity" at a time of difficulty. But he called on all sides in the Brexit debate to "rise above" it and "do better".
Speaking at Daniel O'Connell's graveside in Glasnevin Cemetery alongside Irish Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe, Mr Donaldson said the DUP did not see Brexit "as a vehicle for creating a hard border on the island of Ireland".
He was representing the UK Parliament at an event honouring the Irish political heavyweight MP, who campaigned for Catholic emancipation and repeal of the Act of Union.
"Daniel O'Connell was a parliamentarian who opposed the use of violence for political purposes," the MP said.
"In the aftermath of the murder of Lyra McKee, it's appropriate to say that those who claim to be nationalist and republican and who use violence to further their political aims are not being true to the ideals promoted by people like Daniel O'Connell, who believed that political violence was never justified."
He said parts of the Good Friday Agreement had been left "dormant", including north-south relations. "If you asked me 20 years ago which were the relationships most likely to flourish, I wouldn't have said the east-west relationship would have done better than the north-south relationship. But they have, and they started from a low base."
He praised the maturity of Anglo-Irish relations up until Brexit.
He added: "I hope they flourish again. There is no threat to my unionism from the north-south relationship."
He said politicians should "focus less on the border and more on building relationships between these islands".
"We need to repair the damage that has been done," he said.
"We need the Irish Government to work with the UK Government towards an accommodation that avoids not only a hard border on the island of Ireland, but also a hard border in the Irish Sea."