Thursday, 14 March 2019
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I will respond first to Senator Gavan's interesting comments. We must look at all aspects of an agreed Ireland. When I talk about the Commonwealth, I know it was a Fine Gael-led Government which declared the Republic in 1949. A consequence was the passage of the Ireland Act 1949 in Westminster which recognised, in effect, the Northern Ireland state for the first time. It was Tim Pat Coogan who said, rightly, that it brought on the Border campaign in the 1950s. While I appreciate where Senator Gavan is coming from, we have to be very careful. What I said yesterday rings true. Perhaps calling for a Border poll now is the wrong thing to do. I have talked to businesses and representatives of the British Irish Chamber of Commerce in London. They thought the time to call for a Border poll would be in ten or 15 years, which would give people space. Brexit has caused huge hurt, anger and anxiety. While people have every right to call for a Border poll, we need space for now. I look forward to the conference on 27 April. If I can make it, I would love to attend.
Regarding a long extension process, what is happening in Westminster is incredible. It looks today as if the Prime Minister will request an Article 50 extension. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, has rightly said that we are in favour of a long extension but it is up to the EU. On 21 March, a European Council will take place and it will determine much regarding where we are going. We are grinding down the clock and I believe the withdrawal agreement is the best of a bad lot. While we would like to see a second referendum, we cannot be sure where that would go, given the way things are in the UK. There is no good side to Brexit for this country.