Northern Ireland news

Belfast professor says he was motivated by Bexit to sign open letter to taoiseach

Prof Phil Scraton was among the most high profile signatories of the open letter to taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

A high profile signatory of the open letter to taoiseach Leo Varadkar, calling on him to protect the rights of Irish citizens living in the north, said he was motivated by Brexit threatening stability and advances of the last two decades.

Professor Phil Scraton, from Queen's University School of Law, was among more than 200 members of civic society who signed the letter.

The respected academic, who led the independent research panel team into the Hillsborough disaster and is currently working with the Grenfell Tower fire inquiry team, said Brexit brought "false political and economic promises"

"For all the triumphalism, the Brexit result - well short of an overall majority of all citizens, was literally bought on false political and economic promises while exploiting fears of 'the other'.

"Greater London, North West England, Scotland and the Six Counties were emphatic in their commitment to remaining in and reforming a flawed European Union", he said.

The open letter to the taoiseach, which first appeared in the Irish News, was signed by a number of high profile public sporting figures, including All-Ireland-winning Tyrone GAA captain Peter Canavan as well as Republic of Ireland soccer international James McClean.

Prominent lawyers, business leaders and figures from the education and community sectors also joined the public appeal to "express our frustration and growing concern over the deepening nature of the ongoing political crisis in the north".

"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".

Among the academics who signed the letter Prof Scraton, was the most high profile. He said the deal announced last Friday, for phase one of the Brexit talks did nothing to re-assure the fears of citizens of Northern Ireland about the future of the border.

"Here we are left with the potential rejuvenation of a border, threatening the stability and advances of the last two decades", he said.

"The fudged 'phase one deal' takes us no closer to resolving the border issue - socially, politically, economically," he added.

Meanwhile, Sinn Féin's northern leader Michelle O'Neill welcomed the letter which she said called "for respect and equality at the heart of the process".

However, she accused the DUP of blocking the creation of a new Stormont Executive.

"The DUP needs to end this stubborn anti-equality blockade which would allow us all to get back to the work that we were elected to do," she said.

"The British government also needs to stop pandering to the DUP by allowing them to block rights they afford their own constituents."

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