Prominent nationalists ask taoiseach to protect northern citizens' rights

Appeal to Leo Varadkar. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
Appeal to Leo Varadkar. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire.

INFLUENTIAL figures within northern nationalism – including the GAA – have penned an open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar urging him to act to protect the rights of Irish citizens in the north.

Signatories include former All-Ireland-winning Tyrone captain Peter Canavan as well as Republic of Ireland soccer international James McClean and boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlon.

Appeal to taoiseach: List of signatories

Letter signatories a who's who of the well-known

Prominent lawyers, business leaders, and figures from academia, the community, education and sports sectors have also signed the unprecedented open letter carried in The Irish News today.

They call on the Irish government, as a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, to use its influence to end the political crisis. They outline how the stalled Stormont process and Brexit have led to a sense of abandonment not felt since the country was partitioned.

“We believe that the current crisis has come about fundamentally due to a failure to both implement and defend the Good Friday and St Andrews Agreements,” they say.

“The result has been a denial and refusal of equality, rights and respect towards the section of the community to which we belong, as well as everyone living here.

“The impending reality of Brexit now threatens to reinforce partition on this island and revisit a sense of abandonment as experienced by our parents and grandparents.”

While the letter acknowledges some assurances given in Friday’s deal between the EU and the British government in relation to Northern Ireland, it also warns that “Brexit pushes us all into unchartered territory with huge uncertainty for business and the economy”.

Dublin and London, meanwhile, clashed yesterday over whether the Brexit agreement intended to trigger trade talks is legally binding or not.

The dispute was sparked when Brexit Secretary David Davis insisted it was much more a statement of intent than “legally enforceable”.

The Irish government’s chief whip, Joe McHugh, branded the comments “bizarre”. It came as Secretary of State James Brokenshire told the BBC’s Sunday Politics programme the deal did not mean Britain and Northern Ireland would remain in alignment with the EU. “We are not... We are leaving [with] NI being part of that,” he said.