Northern Ireland news

Signatory to open letter to Taoiseach 'disappointed' by lack of response

Niall Murphy signed a letter asking the Taoiseach to protect the rights of Irish citizens in the north. Picture by Matt Bohill

ONE of the 200 signatories of a letter to Leo Varadkar asking him to act to protect the rights of Irish citizens in the north has expressed disappointment that the Taoiseach has not responded.

While a spokesperson for Mr Varadkar's office acknowledged the letter when it was published in The Irish News in December, the Fine Gael leader has not formally responded, with a leading lawyer saying there is growing "discontent" among wider nationalism.

Signatories included All-Ireland-winning Tyrone GAA captain Peter Canavan as well as Republic of Ireland soccer international James McClean and boxers Paddy Barnes and Michael Conlan.

The letter called on the Irish government to use its influence to end the political crisis at Stormont and said 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".

Solicitor Niall Murphy said they are disappointed that the key points have not yet been addressed by Mr Varadkar's government.

A spokesperson for the Taoiseach responded to the appeal at the time by saying: "The Irish government's guiding light in the (Brexit) negotiations has been to ensure that the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement with regard to the constitutional status of Northern Ireland and the principle of consent".

Mr Murphy said: "We understand that our concerns have been registered by the Irish Government.

"However, we have since urged that the issues raised in our correspondence be urgently and actively addressed, in the context of the present talks.

"The last seven days have provided a microcosm of the issues that we face."

Mr Murphy said legal challenges around the Loughinisland massacre and anger over the sentencing of loyalist supergrass Gary Haggarty are among the issues concerning many nationalists.

Earlier this week it was also revealed that the PSNI has had access to a military intelligence database since 2007 but it has not been routinely searched when compiling disclosure of intelligence material for legacy cases.

Mr Murphy said all this has caused "great hurt and distress in many homes".

"In addition to these mounting challenges, the DUP have failed to confirm to those seeking marriage equality that the abuse of the Petition of Concern would not continue in a new dispensation," he said.

"Irish language activists are no further assured that there would statutory protection in a free standing act.

"The totality of these pressing issues, which are an immediate affront to nationalist sensibilities require a strong voice from the Irish Government."

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