Belfast Telegraph

Return to direct rule must be avoided, says Fianna Fail's Martin

Fears: Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin
Fears: Fianna Fail’s Micheal Martin

By Staff Reporter

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin has said the threat to impose direct rule is unacceptable and a serious effort must be made to break the political impasse.

He was speaking in the Dail yesterday on Brexit.

"The people of Northern Ireland have been left without a voice at this dramatic moment in their history because their democratic institutions were collapsed two years ago over a heating scheme which appears to have lost a fraction of what was originally claimed," he said.

Today marks the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

Mr Martin said his party would support any "reasonable proposal" from today's Brussels summit that protects the EU and limits the damage of Brexit,

"The fact that this summit has to be held at all is a failure of the process and of the UK political establishment," he said.

"We should all hope that what emerges from the summit moves the core issues to a resolution and doesn't just move the can one step down the road.

"There are no circumstances in which Brexit will end any time soon.

"If everything works out, we will still have nearly two years of new Brexit negotiations to undertake, and the economic hurt caused by Brexit will continue.

"The fall in sterling has directly undermined many businesses, particularly smaller indigenous firms which are reliant on the UK market alone.

"We can't wait for finality from London. We need much greater urgency in helping businesses and communities which are already hurting from Brexit and are scared of what lies ahead." Mr Martin said that today's Brexit summit in Brussels was unlikely to be the final one.

"Obviously the best outcome would be for the UK to either hold a referendum to remain or to quickly ratify the agreement and to seek a much closer connection with the EU than the free trade agreement agreed last year," he said.

"We support the idea of offering any extension required to enable a process which has a credible chance of reaching a concrete conclusion.

"Whether it be a short or a long extension - or the sort of flexible extension which president Tusk has proposed - it remains absolutely the case that the EU should do whatever it takes to avoid the damage of a chaotic Brexit."

Mr Martin said that although a long extension with the UK holding EU elections next month may be the best choice, it wasn't an easy option.

"The opinion of President Macron and some other leaders that such a scenario threatens to destabilise the elections and radicalise some contests is one we have to take seriously," he said.

"Therefore if the summit agrees to maintain the demand for the UK to hold the elections it must also agree some initiative to tackle the backlash. The threat from extreme forces and radicalised anti-EU rhetoric is one which must not be ignored and it must be challenged."

He added: "Those elections are more important than they have been at any stage in the last 40 years. They should be a direct fight between those who believe in the EU and want it to work better for their citizens and those who seek to undermine it and have opposed it relentlessly."

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