Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Hundreds attend Sinn Fein Brexit meeting

Hundreds of people attended a public meeting in Bellini’s last Wednesday night to discuss the fallout from the recent Brexit result.

Hosted by Sinn Féin the panel included Irish Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir,  Stormont Executive Office Junior Minister Megan Fearon, Economy Committee Chair Conor Murphy and Newry and Amragh MP Mickey Brady.

Entitled Post EU Referendum – The Way Forward For Ireland, the panellists addressed the audience on numerous aspects of the consequences of the result and what must be done going forward, before the floor was opened up to questions from the audience.

Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir called for a broad, inclusive campaign to oppose the north being dragged out of Europe.

“The people of the north spoke; they quite definitively expressed their wish to remain in Europe and now their democratic vote is being ignored,” he said.

“The people who voted to remain were not just nationalists or republicans or Sinn Féin supporters.  They came from a broad cross-section of society.  For the first time in history large numbers of people from the unionist community voted with Sinn Féin and they are now turning to Sinn Féin to protect their rights.

“So this can’t be a Sinn Féin campaign.  It must be broad and inclusive.  The farmers who are going to see their livelihoods destroyed, the businesses that are going to be driven out of existence, the young people who are going to be pushed into emigration because we can’t attract foreign investment; they all must join together with unionists, nationalists and dissenter to oppose what would be a catastrophic result for the north.

“And I’m speaking particularly to the young people here tonight, the group that voted most overwhelmingly to remain; this is your future, this is your campaign and you must be to the fore of it.  England and Wales may have spoken but so did Scotland and the north and this is far from a done deal.”

Newry MLA Conor Murphy outlined the options that now lay in front of those who voted remain.

“We can sit here and we can fume about the result, fume about the indifference of Westminster and belligerence of Theresa Villiers or we can do something about it,” he said.

“The first thing to do is to get organised and tonight is the start of that. This was not a political result, this will have ramifications for every section of society.”

Referring to a recent document released by Intertrade Ireland outlining the many ramifications the result will have for the north, Mr Murphy said none were positive.

“So we need to speak to trade unions, we need to speak to farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers, parents, young people and we need to bring them together.

“We also need to closely examine the legality of what Britain is attempting to do.  The Good Friday Agreement is an internationally recognised peace treaty and it is very explicit when it states that there can be no constitutional change to the position of the north unless the people of the north consent.  On the 23rd of June we very clearly did not consent.

“Finally, people must begin looking at the root cause of the problem here.  There is a very serious democratic deficit in the north.  We can no longer afford to be a passive people that sit back and allow momentous decisions about our future to be taken by the people of Shropshire and Lincolnshire. It may be difficult for some to discuss but we can no longer allow Westminster to take these decisions and just hope that the next big decision they take works out in our favour.”

Outlining some of the work her department has carried out in the wake of the EU Result, South Armagh MLA Megan Fearon said the referendum result had given rise to a new confidence among racist groups, who, “motivated by hate, now feel able to publically express themselves more and those who agree with them now feel entitled to public outbursts of racist abuse and aggression.

“Thankfully that has not spread here yet but there is no point in pretending we do not have our own bigots here, so I have been meeting with the Justice Minister to discuss a strategy for preventing that kind of opinion from manifesting or gaining a foothold here.”