SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty MLA has responded to the EU referendum result which will see Northern Ireland dragged out of the European Union in opposition to the will of the people here.
He said: “The referendum result presents huge challenges for the North and in particular a border community like ours. It is devastating that our people have now been shackled to a future they did not vote for. Opportunities have been lost as investors will look elsewhere to gain access to the single market. This result has the potential to re-partition this island, to drive a wedge between our economies and to set progress made over recent years back generations.
“It is devastating that almost 20 years into the peace process we are in danger of seeing the return of a hard border across Ireland. We have been left as a semi detached unit shackled onto a detached unit, all for a Little England vanity project and an internal leadership wrangle in the Tory party. In real terms it will impact on the way ordinary people go about their daily business, the way people work and the way businesses work. The consequences are yet to really unfold and the uncertainty is damaging.’
“A constituency like Newry and Armagh is a shining light in terms of what benefits the European Union has brought. A vibrant economy embracing cross border trade and movement of goods and people. In public all-island administration terms we have the home of the North South Ministerial Council in Armagh City and we have Inter Trade Ireland based in Newry City. These are essential cross border institutions established through the Good Friday Agreement and with the aid and support of the European Union. The SDLP will not allow these institutions or the work the work they do to be stalled or undermined.
“The SDLP remain committed to building a pluralistic, confident and outward-looking society that the EU has helped to nurture. The best interests of Ireland and its people’s, North and South, remains in Europe. People here made a clear choice to remain part of the European Union and we will fight to make their vote heard in the coming months.
“When we enter discussions with parties in Dublin, London and Brussels, the SDLP will be very clear that there can be no return to a physical border across this island. There must remain freedom of movement for people, goods and services across Ireland.
“As the leader of another member state, the Taoiseach will hold significant influence in the coming negotiations. In the coming days there is a duty on all political leaders on this island to set political differences aside and to come together to plot a new course. The SDLP believe this is an urgent priority. We need to work together to minimise the negative impact of this result, we must insure there is no return to physical borders and we must fight for the very economic survival of this island.”
South Armagh SDLP Councillor Pete Byrne added: “Like the majority of people across Northern Ireland, I am both shocked and saddened by the outcome of the EU Referendum.
“Personally, the timing of the result couldn’t be more hard-hitting. Having spent the last two weeks travelling around France for the Euro’s, where our island came together in a way I have never experienced before, it was refreshing to be able to view our island beyond borders.”
“The people of Ireland had come together over our common interest in football. Returning to the news of a leave vote is deeply disappointing but we must again come together in our common interest, that we, on this island, voted to remain in the EU. There will be a lot of tough decisions ahead, but as public representatives, we all must act in the interests of the people of this island. There can be no return to a border on this island. The free movement of people, goods and services must continue.’
“I am a strong believer in a United Ireland, but we now, more than ever, have an obligation to spell out what a United Ireland would look like. We need to work towards a vision for this island, to lay out a framework that ensures the democratic will of our people is no longer ignored. Right across the north of this island, people will pay the biggest price following this outcome, regardless of their political persuasion. The dice has been rolled on the future of our children and we must stand up to those who wish you plunge us into reverse.’
“The best way to make your voice heard is to get involved… join our team in the SDLP and fight for the future you believe in.”