Northern Ireland news

Seamus Mallon calls for leadership and a new public vote on Brexit

Former SDLP MP Seamus Mallon

FORMER Deputy First Leader Seamus Mallon has called for a second referendum on Brexit saying a new vote is "absolutely essential".

In an interview for the Labour Party Irish Society, Mr Mallon expressed bewilderment over how the crisis had been allowed to threaten the peace process.

Mr Mallon, who was an SDLP MP for almost 20 years, spoke about issues including Brexit, Good Friday Agreement and the need for a people's vote.

Brexit was an "issue of identity" in Britain, he said, "even more so now".

"Because of this, the normal type of political arrangements which usually are adequate to deal with political problems are not adequate to deal with identity problems. The reality in Britain is that now you have a stalemate," Mr Mallon said.

"I would recommend that MPs now go and support another test of opinion among the population. Another referendum. Which hopefully would put this matter to rest.

"The prime minister can't solve it, the cabinet can't solve it, parliament can't solve it. The only people who can solve it are the people through a further referendum. The first was a hopeful decision. The second has got to be an informed decision."

Mr Mallon said the issue of Brexit had been put to the people, and they spoke.

"What they voted for then, bears no relation to what Brexit now is. And the whole circumstances of where Brexit now stands have changed very fundamentally since the initial question was put," he added.

"And I think because of that, because of the international, political and constitutional dimensions which have emerged, I believe it is absolutely essential that another referendum is now held. And I believe if it did go back now we'd see the nightmare of Brexit become a dream of the past."

Mr Mallon also said the Labour Party needed to "stop vacillating on the Brexit issue".

"Give leadership. And show that there is an alternative to the awfulness of the Tory party at the present time," he added.

"People are craving for straight, honest and effective leadership. That's what the Labour Party should be providing. They should not be having divided opinions on this issue. While divided opinions are essential in a political party, this is too serious. They have to have a position, stick by it and win with it."

The interview was conducted by Liam Conlon, the chairman of the Labour Party Irish Society.

"Seamus Mallon is a giant of the Labour movement, and Northern Ireland wouldn't have achieved the Good Friday Agreement without him. We must all listen to him today," Mr Conlon said.

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