Nationalist 'uprising' came about out of frustration, says leading lawyer
A leading lawyer, who was among the signatories of a public appeal by more than 200 nationalists to Leo Varadkar, has said he hopes the "uprising" will put pressure on politicians to implement outstanding strands of the Good Friday Agreement.
The open letter, published in yesterday's Irish News and signed by influential figures from the fields of law, education, business, sport and academia, urged the taoiseach not to leave Irish citizens in the north "out in the cold".
It 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".
Former Tyrone GAA captain Peter Canavan and Republic of Ireland international James McClean were among those to sign the letter, while human rights lawyer Niall Murphy was one of over 40 prominent members of the legal profession.
He said he was motivated by a failure to implement mechanisms to deal with the legacy of the Troubles and the letter came about as a result of "conversations" among people who are frustrated at the political vacuum.
"These same conversations are happening at school gates, by the side of football pitches, in coffee shops - people are agitated and frustrated by the same issues," he said.
"It's professionally soul-destroying having to tell a widow who deserves access to justice in a expeditious manner that you cannot do anything to expedite that justice, that there is chronic under-resourcing, the system is hamstrung, delayed legacy inquests, no Article 2 compliant mechanisms to deal with the past.
"All things that were politically agreed but frustratingly yet to be implemented.
"I'd like to think this coming together, this uprising, gives people confidence and reassurance that there is a coherent, strong representation. It's not meant to displace any political party but rather to let the Irish government know these issues are deeply felt by all members of society.
"The Good Friday Agreement isn't owned by any political party, it's owned by the people."
Sinn Féin's Declan Kearney also said the letter showed there is "huge anger and frustration within wider nationalism at the continued disrespect from political unionism and the British for the Irish cultural traditions and nationalist/republican political identity in this part of Ireland".
However, DUP MP Ian Paisley was scathing of the letter, claiming those who signed it "realise Leo Varadkar has been done over" in Brexit negotiations.
He also said both Sinn Féin and the SDLP "should be in the place they are elected to, doing the job, but have let nationalists down so they are left to write to Leo (Varadkar)".
"Nationalist political representatives should be ashamed of themselves as they have dereliction in duty to people who elect them," he said.
"Ultimately the letter shows that the DUP actions are making strides ahead of nationalism and securing the future of Northern Ireland post-Brexit.
"Nationalism is on the back foot... trying to polish brass and claim it is gold.
"What nationalism should do is join with us in obtaining the best trade deal possible for Northern Ireland."