Northern Ireland news

British government's 'inept' handling of north in Brexit negotiations 'has put united Ireland centre stage'

The Ireland's Future document will be officially launched online tonight at 7.30pm

THE British government's "inept and disrespectful handling" of Northern Ireland during the Brexit negotiations has given greater impetus to a united Ireland, a civic nationalist group has said.

Ireland's Future will tonight launch a new document on how Irish unity could become a reality. It said a united Ireland could be agreed through referendums in the north and Republic, similar to those held for the Good Friday Agreement.

In 'The Conversation on Ireland's Future' document, the group said discussions around Irish unity should not fall into "lazy language of division".

READ MORE: British government has 'unlimited disregard' for Good Friday Agreement

It said those who brand conversations around unity as "divisive and dangerous are simply encouraging the spread of fear and anxiety".

"There is no contradiction between making the (Good Friday) Agreement work, in all its parts, and planning for the referendums that will determine the future of Ireland," the document stated.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has already said that his government's Shared Island Unit, which aims to look at cross-border projects including the Ulster Canal, will not "increase momentum towards a border poll".

Mr Martin also ruled out a poll within the next five years arguing it would be "volatile and divisive".

However, the Ireland's Future document said the Shared Island Unit "must not run away from the government-resourced work required to prepare for a united Ireland".

Human rights law expert Professor Colin Harvey

It called for an all-Ireland citizens' assembly which would allow for a reasoned debate and enable people to have clear information about the impact of possible referendums.

"We believe that when these referendums are triggered people should have as clear an idea as possible about the consequences," the document stated.

It said the Good Friday Agreement should provide the framework for a pathway towards a united Ireland.

But it warned that "all-Ireland civic dialogue" was key and raised concerns that "an elite-level negotiation - either before or after the referendums" would hand "a communal veto to one political community in the north".

The document answered key questions about what will happen in the event of a united Ireland including: how people in Northern Ireland will retain British citizenship; how the whole island, including the north, will become part of the European Union, and how the Irish constitution will be amended.

The document also said the north's assembly and executive may not necessarily be abolished in a united Ireland.

"The (Good Friday) Agreement does not contemplate the abolition of the assembly or the executive following reunification," it stated.

"These institutions remain operable in a united Ireland and would, presumably, continue unless and until alternative institutions are approved."

:: The document will be officially launched on Ireland's Future's Twitter, Facebook and YouTube channels at 7.30pm today. Professor Colin Harvey, an expert in human rights law, will join journalist Martina Devlin to discuss the details.

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