Northern Ireland

Brexit: Prominent figures explain why they signed letter to Leo Varadkar

Patricia Mac Bride, Gerry Carlile and Conal McFeely 
Patricia Mac Bride, Gerry Carlile and Conal McFeely 

As 1,000 prominent figures from civic nationalism put their names to an open letter to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar a number of the signatories explain why they felt it necessary to support the initiative...

Pat Cullen, former director of nursing at the Public Health Agency

Over the last ten years many health services have been delivered on an all-Ireland basis.

The development of acute services networks across the island of Ireland is now at risk because we are being forced out of the EU, despite voting to remain.

Click here to read the letter and view full list of signatories

Brexit: Prominent figures explain why they signed letter to Leo Varadkar

The north, with a population of just over 1.8million (2011 census), has insufficient demand to make it economically viable to provide some specialised medical services alone. However, cross border cooperation on health services with the south (which has a population of approx. 4.8m people) allows for quality specialised medical services to be delivered on an all-island basis, with patients in the north of Ireland no longer having to travel to England to receive their care.

€53million of specialist services are on hold pending Brexit negotiations. These include all island acute hospital services, prevention and detection services and services to tackle health inequalities, particularly along border areas.

By April 2018, 87 per cent of EU nurses have left the NHS since the Brexit referendum citing the reason for leaving being they felt very unwelcome and concerned for future work. This is catastrophic for health and social care services.

The Irish government must protect our health rights because the British Government simply doesn’t care.


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Patricia Mac Bride, media commentator

Conal McFeely
Conal McFeely

Brexit has created a situation where many of the rights and freedoms we have come to take for granted are at risk. Among those most likely to be at the sharp end of this are our young people.

October and November are the months of university campus tours, where thousands of next year's freshers make probably the first big decision of their lives: where will I go to university?

As the parent of one such young person, the decision becomes even more complex because there is uncertainty over whether he will be treated as a non-EU student should he pursue his wish to study in Dublin. Should this happen, the level of fees for a non EU student would make such a choice potentially unaffordable. The opportunity to take part in Erasmus programmes is potentially curtailed.

A key reason I signed the letter is to safeguard the rights of all our young people pursuing education to be treated as Irish citizens in Ireland. Anything less is unacceptable.


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Gerry Carlile, businessman

This letter is a reminder to the Irish government of their responsibilities regarding the north of this country.

We cannot be left behind and we will not be left behind.

We did not vote for Brexit. Brexit is being forced on us against our will.

We are Irish and European citizens and we must have the same rights and entitlements that other Irish and European citizens across this island have access to.

The Good Friday Agreement has been under attack since its inception. Rights envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement have not been realised. Brexit threatens to further erode the Good Friday Agreement.

As our economy comes under increasing pressure, it is incumbent upon the Dublin government to defend and protect the people in the north. The British government has no interest in us. Dublin must step up and represent the people in the north.

Put quite simply, An Taoiseach must keep to his word.


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Niall Murphy, lawyer

We collectively seek to give expression to a deep sense of fear in respect of the current Brexit negotiations in the midst of the continuing political crisis in the north, the denial of rights taken for granted in all other parts of these islands by a DUP emboldened by its alliance with the British Conservatives and, as a result of that alliance, the denial of democracy and functioning of the Good Friday Agreement political institutions.

Our concept of Irish identity is inclusive, welcoming and embraces an agenda of rights and equality for all. The denial of rights to Irish speakers, those who seek access to justice for hurt endured during the conflict and those who seek marriage equality is an impediment to fundamental rights which are expected and demanded.

The fear that partition in our island will be deepened by a border, due to a constitutional crisis that no Irish person has sought to provoke.

We implore the Taoiseach and the Irish Government to stand firm in these negotiations and to ensure that rights enjoyed in Donegal will continue to be enjoyed in Derry and that a return to a border in Ireland will not be acceptable.


Conal McFeely, community worker

In late October 2018, An Taoiseach visited Creggan Enterprises in Rath Mor, where we had the opportunity to put to him some of the concerns, and very real fears, held by those of us in marginalised border communities

We told Mr Varadkar that we were very mindful of his continued pledge not to permit new, or further, divisions on this island, which might impact on us.

Derry, as a city already on the margins of this island, and on the margins of Europe, needs to ensure that we will not face any new borders, which could marginalise us even further.

We welcome An Taoiseach’s stated determination to protect the rights, and aspirations, of all Northern citizens as laid out in the Good Friday Agreement. The Foyle constituency voted by 78 per cent to remain in Europe, and not one of wants a return to the dark days of the hard border.

We were encouraged by Mr Varadkar’s remarks that the people of the North who identify as Irish and European, under the terms of the GFA, must continue to enjoy the rights of European citizens post-Brexit.

There has been so much good and positive work done in marginalised communities over the past 25 years – so we would impress on Mr Varadkar that there is still so much more good and positive work yet to do.

On a recent visit to An Taoiseach, the EU president Donald Tusk ruled out a hard border, saying: “Ní neartgo cur le chéile.” There is no strength without unity. We look forward to all of us growing stronger together.