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Leading Belfast lawyer warns that north is "sleep walking into a constitutional disaster"

Leading Belfast lawyer Niall Murphy has warned that the north is "sleep walking into a constitutional disaster". Picture by Matt Bohill

A LEADING Belfast lawyer, who was one of 200 signatories of a public letter highlighting northern nationalists' Brexit concerns to Leo Varadkar, has warned that the north is "sleep walking into a constitutional disaster".

Niall Murphy added his name to the letter published in The Irish News in December asking the taoiseach to protect the rights of Irish citizens in the north in the wake of Brexit and the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont.

Other signatories included All-Ireland-winning Tyrone GAA captain Peter Canavan as well as Republic of Ireland soccer international James McClean.

In an article published yesterday on the website of journalist Eamonn Mallie, Mr Murphy, a solicitor with KRW Law, said he "firmly believes the letter has had a profound effect on the thinking of the Irish government".

In February, Mr Murphy was part of a group of signatories who met the taoiseach and tánaiste Simon Coveney. He said he feels the pair "took our views on board" and since then has remained in contact with Irish government officials.

However the human rights lawyer added that "we cannot be complacent....we are in the midst of a generational epoch defining constitutional moment, not of our choosing."

"I regret to state that we are sleep walking into a constitutional disaster."

Referring to the confidence and supply deal in which the DUP agreed to prop up the Conservative government last June, Mr Murphy described the arrangement as a "breach of the Good Friday Agreement" and the DUP as "nihilistic wreckers".

"It dispels for the absolute avoidance of doubt the pretence that the British government are independent co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement," he said.

"The DUP's narrow minded selfish political interests are at the heart of the British government, and will dominate the British government's approach to Brexit.

"There can be no regulatory alignment on this island, and Bangor must be as British as Finchley, unless you are gay and want to be married or seek to live a life through the medium of Irish with statutory protection."

The solicitor claimed that the British government "only ever moves when the Irish government moves them".

In turn, the Dublin administration, he added, "only ever move...when put under pressure by significant political pressure from Irish America and also the mobilisation of a broad northern nationalist voice."

As the Brexit negotiations reach a critical point, Mr Murphy has urged the Irish government to "hold firm and ensure there is no regression on rights".

"Despite earlier commitments, recent UK and EU statements now point to Irish passport holders resident here being stripped of access to almost all active EU rights following Brexit," he said.

"Put simply, we are frogs in a pot of water, and our rights are slowly being boiled and are evaporating before our eyes. Nobody is screaming stop. We are sleep walking into second class citizenship.

"Citizenship rights, human rights, and the rights contained in the Good Friday Agreement need to be protected from the DUP/Tory Brexit agenda," added the lawyer.

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