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Ireland gets special mention in European Parliament Brexit resolution

Martina Anderson initially claimed the European Parlimant had backed calls for the north to remain in the single market and customs union. Picture by Columba O'Hare.

Nationalists have welcomed the European Parliament's support for measures to protect Ireland's interests in the Brexit negotiations.

The resolution passed yesterday in Strasbourg by 557-to-92 votes included three individual clauses addressing post-Brexit concerns specific to Ireland.

The parliament's support for the resolution was initially welcomed by Sinn Féin's Martina Anderson, who characterised it as a call by MEPs for the "north to remain in the single market and customs union".

However, 55 minutes later the party reissued the same press release, only this time Ms Anderson said the resolution was an "indication of the growing support for special status for the north within the EU".

The three clauses included calls to recognise Ireland's special circumstances and the need to maintain the stability of the peace process. The MEPs also endorsed calls for the British government to take responsibility for a "unique, effective and workable solution" that avoids hard border and "ensures full compliance with the Good Friday Agreement". It notes how Theresa May's Florence speech last month included a pledge to avoid physical infrastructure at the border.

The resolution also reiterated the parliament's belief that any solution for Ireland be allowed to predetermine the outcome of discussions about the future relationship between the EU and the UK.

Ms Anderson welcomed the parliament's reaffirmed commitment to the Good Friday Agreement.

She said the resolution was a "clear indication of the growing support for special status for the north".

"Protecting the Good Friday Agreement in all its parts includes the part where the consent of the people of Ireland - north and south - is required to alter the constitutional position of the north," she said.

"It also means being in the single market and the customs union."

SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the EU's defence of Ireland's interests was in "stark contrast" the London government, which she claimed was willing to use the north as a "bargaining chip".

Ulster Unionist MEP Jim Nicholson had urged the parliament to reject the motion.

“This is a sad day for me – by backing this text, it feels as though Europe is turning its back on decades of good relations with all communities in Northern Ireland," he said.

"That is a huge mistake."

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