It’s going to be a long and difficult road ahead for those involved in Brexit and it looks like the problems are already beginning in Northern Ireland as old rivalries re-surface.

A target date was announced yesterday for the establishment of an all-Ireland forum to discuss the impact of Brexit on the island of Ireland but the largest Unionist Party, led by Arlene Foster, has confirmed that it will not send representatives to take part in any meetings. Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny confirmed that he was finalising plans to convene an all-Ireland conversation in order to discuss the impact of the decision by the United Kingdom to leave the EU. At first Leaders Questions of the new Dáil term, Mr Kenny was asked by Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams if and when a “national conversation“ would take place and he responded by telling Mr Adams that it will commence in November of this year. Mr Kenny went on to state that he believes that British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 at the beginning of next year.

However, in a statement issued yesterday, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) said its position is that it would not be participating in any cross border forum or initiative.

It seems that despite all the negative fallout from Brexit and the various leading figures of the leave campaign departing the scene quicker than any UK exit ever could, the DUP is showing true form by standing firm with its dogged intentions to stay loyal to Britain and accept the Brexit outcome without discussing it with its fellow political parties and its southern island contemporaries. The real question here is what exactly they hope to gain by supporting a plan that will not only divide an island but will also hinder and possibly destroy all the excellent work that has been achieved under the Good Friday Agreement?  We are all well aware now that there was no plan whatsoever with regards to the UK leaving the European Union and despite the claims otherwise, it is in Northern Ireland that Brexit will have the most impact. The land border will be a massively contentious issue, especially with many parties involved looking to keep the gates open between the two states on the island and many businesses on both sides will be hindered by any kind of border or import restrictions.

What could possibly be so bad about deciding to attend the forum? Have we not moved past this petty attitude of acting stubborn to save face, especially when it concerns the welfare of all citizens on the island of Ireland? The DUP needs to understand that Europe has been a life line to Northern Ireland in trade, grants, investment and tourism. Like it or not, the UK’s decision to leave will have ramifications on everybody both north and south of Ireland. Any chance that there can be a compromise to allow the border between both states has to be taken seriously by all parties involved.  This forum is the best chance to discuss the possibility of a future joint plan to address what will happen because at the end of the day, the Republic of Ireland cannot influence the Brexit decision but it can begin to work with the people of Northern Ireland and prevent any long term negative consequences. There is no doubt that the decision by the DUP to support Brexit during the referendum had an influence on the voting. It seems strange that they adopted this position when all other major parties including other Unionist parties, supported the remain campaign. Was it some kind of old fashioned support for British dominion or was it indeed, as they stated during the campaign, that they actually believed that leaving the UK would be good for Britain and Northern Ireland?

Whatever their reasons, the DUP must now face the fact that this a very unique problem for all parties involved; Brexit doesn’t care if you are Unionist or Nationalist. The impact will hit us all on both sides of the border and the DUP is not doing their constituents justice by ignoring real initiatives to prepare for it. The European Union is gearing up to make an example of the UK and show that leaving the Union is not only difficult but also costly and no other nation will feel the brunt of that more than Northern Ireland.

Ken Sweeney
Committed to idea of supporting aspiring writers and journalists. Serial podcaster.

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