Brexit vote means agreeing a new Ireland
THE result of the recent EU referendum presents serious challenges for Ireland, north and south and for relations between Ireland and Britain.
The narrow, right wing agenda of the British government, influenced by racist policies from UKIP, was rejected by the majority of people in the North, from all sections of the community, who voted to remain in the EU.
Now, the British government is attempting to ignore the democratic wishes of the people of the North and drag us out of the EU. What they are doing is profoundly anti-democratic.
That has created widespread concern, not just in the north, but right across Ireland.
The democratic decision of the majority in the North who voted to remain in the EU must be recognised and respected.
The prospect of an EU border, hard or soft, stretching from Dundalk to Derry is something no one in Ireland wants.
An island-wide approach to dealing with the EU is required and that is why Sinn Féin called on the Taoiseach to establish an all-Ireland forum to discuss the impact of the referendum. That now needs to go ahead.
The Taoiseach and the Irish government need to play their part in ensuring that the democratic rights of all Irish citizens are protected, regardless of where they live on the island.
Despite the huge challenges Brexit presents, it has also led to a focus on the potential for building a new Ireland.
A debate has already begun across the country about what a new Ireland within the EU, would look like.
That debate needs to be as wide-ranging as possible, inclusive of the views of a wide range of civic and political opinion from right across Ireland.
The example from Scotland has shown that such a debate can be carried out in a mature, reasonable and sensible manner.
The events in this important year of commemorations for so many across our community also shows that, with mature political leadership, we can deal with such complex issues in a way that is not divisive and that promotes rational discussion and debate.
The debate has begun. It needs to look at all aspects of building a new Ireland; economic, social, political and cultural.
I want to see as many people as possible, from all backgrounds, taking part in this debate. The task of building a new Ireland is bigger than one one political party. It needs to include everyone and I would encourage everyone with the best interests of the people, economy and future of this island to play a full and active part.