Irish Government ‘understands’ unionists’ fears over backstop – Donohoe

Ireland’s Finance Minister said he understands the fears that some people in the unionist community have about the divisive backstop.

In a move to reassure unionists, Paschal Donohoe said that the backstop should not be viewed as a challenge to their community.

Speaking at the Dublin City University (DCU) Brexit Institute, Mr Donohoe said the measure provides certainty to businesses and communities on both sides of the border.

“The Government takes these concerns very seriously, as we do the concerns of everyone who is troubled by Brexit and its potential impacts on both parts of our island,” he said.

“However, the backstop should not be viewed as a challenge to unionism.

“Its purpose is to provide certainty to businesses and communities on both sides of the border that they will be able to continue to operate and go about their daily lives as they do today – nothing more.

“It represents a compromise – it is not the status quo.

“It is not the same as Northern Ireland staying in the EU.”

He said that the Irish government and the EU is working to “reconcile” the interests of both unionism and nationalism.

He told the audience on Monday that if a solution to the border issue is not found, their work the European Commission will intensify to avoid physical infrastructure at the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“This will help to mitigate the risks to the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Donohoe added.

“The UK’s departure from the EU poses an unprecedented challenge for the island of Ireland, and for Northern Ireland in particular.

“In the Brexit negotiations we have insisted on protecting the co-operation on our island between north and south that flows from and underpins that Good Friday Agreement – an agreement that saves lives.

“The EU and UK agreed the backstop on the basis of a shared understanding of the need to address the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland to provide the guarantee necessary to reassure a concerned public.

“Some have expressed concerns that the Withdrawal Agreement and the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland go against the principle of consent contained in the Good Friday Agreement. This is not the case.

“The first line of the protocol, and the first clause of the backstop, reaffirm very clearly the principle of consent.

“No-one wants to see the unintentional loss of enormous benefits that the border as it is now – seamless, unobtrusive and barely perceptible – brings to businesses and families on this island.”

DCU president Professor Brian MacCraith said that Brexit is potentially the most “disruptive political” development of our generation.

He added: “We’re just 16 weeks away from the October 31 deadline and we all know that the consequences of no-deal Brexit will be significant and lasting for most sectors of the Irish economy.

“Having said that, there are some semi-positive rumblings emerging from Brussels.”

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