Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement Debate
Implications for Good Friday Agreement of UK Referendum Result (Resumed): Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform
Senator Mark Daly: As my colleague, Deputy Smith, pointed out, the difficulty about the Dutch Parliament’s understanding of our position is that it is not unique. I understand from meetings Fianna Fáil members had with some of the Sicilian and Italian parliamentarians that they thought Ireland is leaving the EU because Northern Ireland is leaving. This is the challenge we face. Malta had some understanding but, in reality, it requires a lot of education because there is so much going on and so much information-sharing and laying out of our position. One of the big challenges the Government faces is that while Theresa May has made her statement, we need to set out our asks and say what we want. Deputy Sherlock pointed out the votes that took place in Westminster. What is being said by the British Government and what it is doing are two entirely different things. Theresa May when she was Home Secretary said the hard Border would of course return if there were a Brexit. Then she became Prime Minister and said there would of course be no return to a hard Border. Now she says the Border will be as frictionless as possible. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, James Brokenshire, says there will be no special deal for Northern Ireland. The lack of understanding in Westminster could be put in the following way. While Westminster was trying to emphasise the importance of Northern Ireland in terms of the impact of Brexit, one of its reports which the House of Lords produced stated that – I thought it was a very telling line – the relationship between Ireland and Britain has not always been a smooth one. This would have to be the greatest understatement of any diplomat in the history of the State. The report’s analysis of the impact was such that its authors dismissed everything that would suit us and would do everything to suit themselves. The UK currently has an operation called Operation Gull whereby people leaving Belfast, Derry and Larne are profiled and 752 people have been arrested on immigration grounds. It already has immigration controls between the North of Ireland and Britain. That is the solution to not having a hard Border. It has to accept that when 40,000 people were employed in the security forces in the North, the Border could not be secured. Trying to secure it now would be foolhardy, whereas it is already carrying out immigration controls at the three exit points from Northern Ireland to Britain. Yet, it will not reimpose that. The House of Lords has said that it cannot be done for political reasons, even though exactly the same system was in place between 1939 and 1952 and, under it, identify checks were carried out on people travelling from the North to Britain.