EU funding for Northern Ireland and Peace Process must be clarified post Brexit – Committee report

The eligibility of Northern Ireland for receipt of EU Structural funds and other funding schemes and mechanisms must be clarified as a matter of urgency to help underpin the peace process following Brexit, according to a report by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

The report, Brexit and the Future of Ireland: Uniting Ireland and It’s People in Peace and Prosperity outlines in detail the options for the island of Ireland in the wake of Brexit. The report looks at the impact of Brexit on Ireland and what Ireland needs to do in order to peacefully achieve its aim of a united Ireland, as outlined in Article 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution.

The report proposes the setting up of a New Ireland Forum 2 to set a pathway to achieve the peaceful unification of Ireland.

Other recommendations include:

•    Any passport controls between Ireland and the UK should be along the same basis as for people traveling between these islands from 1939 to 1952. There should not be a return to passport controls on the borders between the North and South of Ireland, it says.
•    Given the likely impact on certain categories, including women, in border counties and employment in these areas there is a need for impact analysis on these sectors of society, according to the report. Further research into the income and expenditure for Northern Ireland should be carried out, it says.
•    Welcome the declaration agreed to by the European Council on 29 April 2017 which provides for Northern Ireland automatically becoming part of the EU in the event of a future united Ireland.  This declaration known in Brussels as ‘The Kenny Text’ is similar to that of Commission President Jacque Delors in January 1990 on the issue of German Unification ‘East Germany is a special case’.
•    It is recognised that World Trade Organisation rules and a hard border would have a detrimental impact on Ireland North and South & Further impact assessment is required on the economic impact of reunification. The Committee urges that the matter of EU funding for Northern Ireland and the border region remains high on the agenda and an expeditious solution is found for successor programmes after 2020.
•    Establish an international task force with experts in security so that plans to meet any risks may be devised and implemented.
•    Fears and concerns of the Unionist community need to be examined, understood and addressed comprehensively by all stakeholders in advance of any referendum.
•    The legacy issues in society outlined by Senator Frances Black and the inter-generational impact of the troubles in terms of mental health consequences and substance abuse needs to be addressed
•    Explore potential solutions to resolve disputes that may arise from the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, as recommended
•    Lessons from referendums need to be learned to ensure that the Irish government fulfils its constitutional obligations.
•    The Government needs to carry out an audit in relation to the legal and constitutional changes pre and post-unification.

Committee Chair Kathleen Funchion said: “The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in its work programme appointed Senator Mark Daly as rapporteur to compile a report on the effect of Brexit on Ireland, what Ireland should seek to have in the final agreement between the EU and the UK, particularly in the event of the people of Northern Ireland voting for a united Ireland and what Ireland needs to do in order to peacefully achieve its constitutional obligation, as described by Attorney General Brady (2002-07), of a united Ireland, as outlined in Article 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution. The Committee recognises that the matters examined were complex and sensitive. The rationale behind the report was to examine challenges and to seek to identify concerns and explore how they could be addressed.”

Report rapporteur Senator Mark Daly said: “It is clear from all the reports written on the issue of Brexit that its effect on Northern Ireland will be significant. In February 2016 research commissioned by the UK Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment on the economic implications of a UK exit from the EU showed that Northern Ireland is more vulnerable to Brexit than Britain. The loss to Northern Ireland of EU membership and funding will be significant, and the subsequent effect on the economy and the potential to destabilise the Peace Process is a central concern.

“That is why the key recommendation of the report is if current EU funding programmes cannot be protected then the eligibility of Northern Ireland for receipt of EU Structural funds and other funding schemes and mechanisms must be clarified as a matter of urgency, to help underpin the peace process. Ireland believes that in relation to Brexit Northern Ireland is a special case and its Peace Process is worthy of on-going support from the EU and Britain.”

Read the report here.

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