‘We need to develop more Irish-British ties ahead of Brexit’ – Irish Chief Whip Joe McHugh

August 21, 2017

The Irish government’s Chief Whip Joe McHugh, TD, says he believes many British politicians want to protect the peace process and he insists more bridges need to be built between Irish and British politicians ahead of Brexit.

Speaking after the publication of UK position papers on the border ahead of substantive Brexit negotiations with the EU, the Minister said Ireland has “many friends in Britain and we need to work with them.”

“There are senior politicians in all the main parties in Britain who have had their own input into the peace we enjoy today,” said the Donegal TD.

“Politicians I worked alongside in the British Irish Parliamentary Assembly know the intricacies of the peace process; they know the geography of the Border and they know the politics and decisions needed to maintain and protect the process.”

The Irish Minister has been in contact with several British politicians in recent weeks, including his UK counterpart, the Government Chief Whip in the UK, the Rt Hon Gavin Williamson CBE – who he says is aware of the need to strengthen the ties between Ireland and the UK further in the months ahead.

“I am keen to discuss this further because I believe that through dialogue with politicians who know the issues we are facing ahead of Brexit there will be more opportunities to tell our story,” said Mr McHugh.

“There is a new generation of younger politicians in Britain and we also need to get our message to them; that the peace process was hard won and we cannot throw it away.

“Conor McGinn, a new generation of Labour MP, who is from Armagh, has a unique understanding of how Brexit could impact our border communities,” he added.

Minister McHugh said he will be taking up an offer to meet Chief Whip Williamson and hoped to bring him and other British politicians to border areas in his own Donegal constituency to hear from local people on the possible impacts of a negative Brexit.

“The UK position papers published this week are a basis for negotiation but they are not the final position and we must work on all fronts to get the best possible deal for Ireland,” said McHugh.  He added that he had received a strong message from meeting people from Northern Ireland at Brexit conferences in Ireland.

“Many people feel they don’t have a voice on Brexit in the absence of the Northern Ireland Assembly and political institutions.  I am happy to continue to give those people – Irish Citizens among them – a voice alongside citizens of this State and voice those concerns in London, Brussels and wherever else we need to go to do that.”