Monthly Archives: August 2017

Express – “UK goods will have a Irish back door into Europe irrespective of Brexit outcome – senator”

BRITISH firms will have an unofficial back door into Europe irrespective of the Brexit talks if Government proposals go ahead, it was claimed today.

By Darren Hunt, Express:

Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly said the border between the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland would effectively promote a “smugglers charter” as UK firms realised they had a soft entry to EU markets.

The Irish politician said the report released by the Government over the customs union would transform the Irish border to a “back door into Europe”.

Speaking on Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Daly claimed the Republic and north already had an issue with smuggling and the British Government’s plans would increase problems.

The Irish politician said the report released by the Government over the customs union would transform the Irish border to a “back door into Europe”.

Speaking to Radio 4’s Today programme, Mr Daly claimed the Republic and north already had an issue with smuggling and the British Government’s plans would increase problems.

He said: “Ireland wants to have the best deal on Brexit for Britain and it is vital for the peace process that there is no reimposition of border posts or border checks on this island.

Mr Daly continued with his explanation of why the Irish border would be transformed into a “smugglers charter” from people acting dishonestly.

He added: “But what you are not talking about is the people who are going to be dishonest.

“If there are trade differentials between the UK and other non-European partners, our border would be a back door into Europe.

“So people would import goods that are cheaper under tariff arrangements with the UK and then bring them into the Republic and into the EU.

“Of course the UK want to advantage economically over the EU and will do preferential trade agreements with non-EU countries and that becomes a smugglers charter on this island

“We already have a smuggling problem while both jurisdictions are within the EU.”

On Tuesday the Department for Exiting the European Union released a report explaining how the UK would push for a customs partnership with the EU after Britain has exited from the bloc.

The proposals set out would see Britain and the EU enforcing each other’s customs rules so there would be no need for a new physical border post-Brexit.

Mr Verhofstadt took to Twitter to remind the UK it should instead focus on citizen rights and the Brexit divorce bill as a priority in its exit proceedings.

He tweeted: “To be in & out of the Customs Union & ‘invisible borders’ is a fantasy. First need to secure citizens rights & a financial settlement.”

Responding to the paper released by the UK Government, Mr Daley tweeted: “A smugglers charter on this island being proposed by the brexiteers. ‘Cake & Eat it’ policy moves to ‘Pie in the Sky’.


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Filed under Press Coverage

Irish Times – “‘I let confidence around my weight and deafness stop me. But not anymore’”

The first Mary of Dongloe contestant to use Irish Sign Language as her first language looks forward to a more accessible event.
By John Craddon, Irish Times:

Donegal competition that gives the Rose of Tralee a run for its money is marking its 50th anniversary this year, but the 2017 Mary From Dungloe International Festival looks more likely to be remembered as the one when its first-ever deaf contestant made a huge impression on a number of levels – whether she wins or not.


Members of the Irish deaf community will be travelling from all over the country this weekend to the pretty Gaeltacht town in north Donegal to cheer on Caroline McGrotty, a 28-year-old Dungloe native who moved to Dublin as a teenager and is representing the capital at the festival this year.

Besides her family’s connections to the town that stretch back more than 100 years (her father still lives there), her pitch for the crown is built on a strong track record of volunteering, community work and advocacy for the deaf and wider disability communities. She always enjoyed the festival as a youngster, particularly as an accordion player for many years with St Crona’s Dungloe Junior Band, which always led the carnival parade on the final Sunday of the event.

But it’s the fact that Irish Sign Language (ISL) is her first language that is making the biggest impression.

Following her selection as the Dublin Mary, she approached a number of deaf organisations in a bid to raise funds to hire ISL interpreters – not just to ensure that she would be able to follow everything, but to ensure the festival would be accessible for members and supporters from the Irish deaf community.

“At the official opening, I had lot of questions asked of me about ISL and I’ve been explaining to people that ISL is a totally different language to English, and which has its own syntax and grammar and how it’s an incredibly tough language to learn,” she says, adding that she’ll be performing a song in ISL as her party piece.

“My interpreter has been recognised in the street by the local community and tourists who saw her on the main stage, and it’s all been really positive. People are commenting how fantastic it is that the festival is accessible to the deaf community, who are often excluded from these type of events.”

While she clearly loves the town, it was her family and the deaf community that set in motion her move to Dublin to attend St Mary’s School for Deaf Girls in Cabra, a boarding school. She was born hearing to deaf parents, but was herself diagnosed deaf at the age of eight, by which time she was effectively bilingual in both ISL and English.

“Growing up in Dungloe with deaf parents, I was always that little bit different from everyone else. When I was diagnosed as being deaf at the age of eight, I became even more different from the other kids. I never met any other deaf children, even though my parents were actively involved in the deaf community in Donegal – I had only ever met deaf adults. This really is what influenced my decision to leave Donegal after primary and go to the deaf school in Cabra. I wanted to meet other people like me, I didn’t want to feel different.”

“One of the roles of the crowned Mary From Dungloe is to be an ambassador for the town and community and be that positive role model,” said Caroline. “Having a person who is not the ‘average’ and who is that little bit different to be that Mary From Dungloe I hope will inspire children and young adults with disabilities or other difficulties to feel part of the community.”

As well as the deaf community, it looks like her father John will be able to enjoy the festival to the full for the first time this year. “He has lived in the town all of his life and for 50 years, he never had access to what was said on the main stage, at any official events or the crowning.”

In previous years, she says her father would have had to figure out which Mary won by looking at the other Marys on the main stage and seeing which one was not there, as the newly crowned Mary is brought to the stage not wearing the sash of the place she is representing.

However, while Caroline succeeded in the end in getting enough funds to pay for ISL interpreters, thanks mainly to the generosity of a number of organisations working in the deaf community along with Dublin City and Donegal County Councils, she admits it wasn’t easy.

She is effusive with gratitude to all who donated, but Sandra Ivory, manager of the North West offices of Deafhear, who was among the donors, said she was a little disappointed that the organisers of the Dublin Mary selection had made no provision for ISL interpreting for her, particularly given the amount of sponsorship the festival ostensibly generates. “For me, if it was a Polish girl who won the Mary From Dungloe or the Dublin Mary, I would say they would have made sure she had a [Polish] translator.”

However, her participation in the festival comes amid high hopes that a campaign to have ISL officially recognised as a language of the State thanks to the progress of a Private Member’s Bill by Senator Mark Daly of Fianna Fáil. Among other things, the bill seeks to officially recognise ISL as a language of the State and provide a reasonable level of interpreter provision for the roughly 4,000 citizens for whom ISL is their first language.

Susan Foley-Cave of the Bridge Interpreting agency, another of her donors, says she is also a great example of how the younger generation of Irish deaf people are forming identities that embrace both deaf and mainstream communities and who are beginning to overcome barriers to education and employment that would have stopped many not so long ago.

The Dungloe native works full-time for Ahead (Association for Higher Education Access and Disability) but also moonlights as a newsreader on the RTÉ News With Signing. She also put in many years of service as the chair of the Irish Deaf Youth Association. “I think she’s absolutely amazing, not just because of this, but because of all the other work she’s doing . . . and as a role model for Irish deaf youth.”

McGrotty, who is sponsored by the Letterkenny Shopping Centre, had dreamed of being the Dublin Mary for some time, and was encouraged by friends to go for it.

“It’s always been something that I wanted to do, but I had let my confidence around my weight and me being deaf stop me,” she said. “But when I realised that this year was the last year I could enter [there is an age limit], I just had to apply, otherwise I would have regretted it for the rest of my life.”

As she expected, she’s having a ball. “We are being treated like royalty and we are getting to see so many places. One of my highlights was going to the Beach Hotel in Downings where I met the owner Maggie, who shouted “Up the Dubs” at me when she saw my sash. We had great chats and there was lots of singing in the hotel pub by the fire having a drink, where Mickey Joe Harte even made an appearance. It’s just been so surreal.”

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Filed under Active Citizenship, Irish Sign Language

Reuters – “Britain seeks Brexit without borders for Northern Ireland”

By William James and Conor Humphries, Reuters:

Some 30,000 people cross the 500-km (300-mile) border every day without customs or immigration controls; negotiators must work out new arrangements without inflaming tensions in a region that suffered decades of bloody turmoil before a peace deal in 1998.

As part of a series of papers that Prime Minister Theresa May hopes will push forward talks with the EU, the government on Tuesday outlined its vision for a “frictionless” customs system, which one EU politician described as ‘fantasy’.

Wednesday’s publication drew heavily on those proposals as a solution for Northern Ireland that would not involve “physical border infrastructure and border posts”, or electronic surveillance. Reaching agreement with the EU on this was top of Britain’s list of Brexit priorities, the government said.

The aim is “to find a practical solution that recognizes the unique economic, social and cultural context of the land border with Ireland, without creating any new obstacles to trade within the UK,” Northern Ireland minister James Brokenshire said.

May also said Britain would consider stepping in to replace some EU funding for peace projects in Northern Ireland after it leaves the bloc in March 2019, to prevent a resurgence of violence between pro-British Protestants and Catholic Irish nationalists.

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney welcomed the proposals, saying Britain had acknowledged for the first time that it would not be practical to depend on technological solutions to monitor the border.

“Of course what we don’t have, though, is the detail as to how it’s going to work,” he said.

But Senator Mark Daly, deputy leader of Ireland’s opposition Fianna Fáil party, said the proposals for a frictionless border appeared “more like fiction, and clueless on this island”.

“It will be a smugglers’ charter,” he told BBC Radio Four.

Northern Ireland sold 2.7 billion pounds ($3.5 billion) of goods into Ireland in 2015, according to official figures, and many businesses have complex supply chains that involve crossing the border multiple times during the production process.

The Sinn Fein party, which wants a referendum on ending British rule in Northern Ireland and uniting the island under the Irish flag, said it doubted an open border could be delivered.

“They have not put anything concrete on the table . ….we are a fleeting concern to the British government, collateral damage in the Brexit negotiations,” said Michelle O’Neill, Sinn Fein’s leader in Northern Ireland.

Britain said it wanted to maintain the Common Travel Area (CTA), a pact that allows free movement between the United Kingdom and Ireland for British and Irish citizens, with no need for passport controls and “no question of new immigration checks operating between Northern Ireland and Ireland”.

That would mean EU citizens wishing to enter Britain could do so by traveling legitimately to Ireland and crossing the border unchecked – something that is likely to antagonize the many Britons for whom controlling immigration was a key reason for backing Brexit.

“If you don’t have any of these checks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland – the UK-EU border – and you don’t have any between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, well then, where do you check immigration?” Conor McGinn, a spokesman for the opposition Labour Party, told Sky News.

“It seems to me that the government has handed back control of its border to the EU.”

The government said control over migration from the EU into Britain could be exercised by restrictions on access to the British social security system and labor market. Further details would be set out in a future document on immigration.

Britain also wants to introduce new ‘trusted trader’ arrangements to help larger companies and make smaller firms exempt from customs processes.

It rejected the idea of an effective customs border in the Irish Sea that separates England, Wales and Scotland from Ireland and Northern Ireland as “not constitutionally or economically viable”.

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Filed under A United Ireland in Peace and Prosperity

The New York Times – “U.K. Sets Out Goals for an Open Irish Border. Trade Is More Complex.”

LONDON — The militarized checkpoints that once stood along the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland became flash points for sectarian violence during the Troubles, and no one wants to see their return after Britain quits the European Union in 2019.

But a document released by the British government on Wednesday on how to preserve the open border there has underscored the sprawling complexity of Britain’s planned departure from the bloc, known as Brexit.

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom, while Ireland has been an independent nation since 1921. Both are members of the European Union — a shared status that has helped London and Dublin put aside historical differences and develop such a close relationship that border controls have disappeared. Travelers generally do not even know when they have passed from one country to the other.

After Brexit, however, the roughly 300-mile frontier with Ireland will be the United Kingdom’s only land border with a bloc whose economic arrangements, including its customs union and single market, it plans to leave. That creates a host of problems.

The customs union allows members to trade freely among themselves while charging a single tariff on some goods from nonmembers. When Britain leaves the bloc, goods crossing the border from Britain into Ireland could be subject to varying tariffs, unless the British adopt the same tariffs as the European Union or strike a special deal with it. Policing those varying tariffs could be burdensome.

The same principle holds for the single market. It is maintained through a complex and detailed set of standards that Britain would either have to abide by or face the logistical nightmare of checking goods entering the European Union from its territory.

Adopting the same tariffs and standards as the European Union would clear up a lot of problems, but would undermine the supposed purpose of Brexit in the first place, which is to re-establish control over immigration and national sovereignty. It would also complicate, or perhaps even preclude, forging trade deals with countries like the United States, another major goal of Brexit.

The document published on Wednesday represents the first, if somewhat vague, attempt to deal with these problems as they affect the Irish frontier. It rules out the reintroduction of physical infrastructure such as customs posts, and there appear to be no plans to use security cameras or license plate recognition technology at or around the border.

Immigration would not be policed at the Irish frontier, nor would there be passport checks on people entering mainland Britain from Northern Ireland.

That would seem to raise the possibility that European Union citizens could enter Britain indirectly through Ireland, perhaps undermining control over immigration. But the document hints that European citizens would probably be allowed to enter Britain freely and directly from Europe even after Brexit, though they might face some restrictions on their right to work or to claim welfare payments as people from outside the European Union do today.

The bigger problem is trade. The European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, warned last month that “frictionless trade” would not be possible if the United Kingdom left the bloc’s economic arrangements.

Wednesday’s document calls on the European Union to agree to a series of waivers for small businesses and farmers, to avoid the need for them to complete customs formalities.

But that is only part of the problem. Even if that were agreed, larger companies would surely face higher costs. The British government is hazy on this point, talking about setting up simplified customs procedures and applying technologies — so far unspecified — to track goods, reduce bureaucracy and prevent costly delays.

British officials say there is so far no estimate of the increased cost that some businesses would face. Stephen Martin, the director general of the Institute of Directors, a business lobby group, described the document as a “significant step forward,” while adding that it “throws up even more questions about how much flexibility and imagination will be needed to overcome some very fundamental challenges.”

John Bruton, a former Irish prime minister, said the document failed to address the need for tariffs to be collected by Ireland on some goods imported into the European Union. “Brexit is going to increase the cost of doing business,” he told the BBC.

Farmers may have to adapt, too. More than 10,000 pigs are exported from Ireland to Northern Ireland every week, while a quarter of all milk produced by dairies in Northern Ireland is exported to Ireland for processing.

To minimize disruptions to trade, the document suggests setting common regulatory standards on agricultural products traded between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Yet that could complicate London’s efforts to strike global trade deals with countries such as the United States, if they involve importing agricultural goods.

Ireland’s government gave the document a polite but cautious reception, with its foreign minister, Simon Coveney, welcoming the principles behind its approach. Yet he added, according to the Irish broadcaster RTE, “What we don’t have, though, is the detail as to how it’s going to work.”

Mark Daly, a senior member of Ireland’s opposition Fianna Fail party, was less diplomatic, describing the plan as “pie in the sky” and warning that the proposals amounted to a “smugglers’ charter.”

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Filed under A United Ireland in Peace and Prosperity

Derry Journal – “‘We are not leaving our own nation state’”

DUP MP Gregory Campbell has said that there is not going to be any united Ireland in a response to a new report stating that groundwork should begin for a future referendum.

Mr Campbell made his views known following the publication of an official report on the Republic of Ireland entitled ‘Brexit and the Future of Ireland, Uniting Ireland & Its People in Peace and Prosperity’.

The report called for preparations to begin for a “pathway to achieve the peaceful reunification of Ireland.”

It also called for unionist fears to be addressed in preparation for a future referendum on Irish reunification.

Responding via his Facebook profile, Mr Campbell said: “The Republic has now set out its stall. I presume they would like responses.

“My response: We are British, we are not leaving our own Nation State precisely BECAUSE we are British.

“We would like good relations with your Country after we gain freedom from the bureaucratic EU which has cost our Nation hundreds of billions, but there is not going to be a United Ireland, either peacefully or any other way.

“Those good relations will operate much better if we all understand exactly where each other stands,” he added.

The Joint Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement published the report, which was compiled by Senator Mark Daly, last week.

Its findings, based on detailed research and examinations of key reports, included input from former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, senior international politicians, expert European Professors and Counter Terrorism experts from the US

In light of its obligations under the Good Friday Agreement, the Irish Government has now been tasked to look at the legal and constitutional changes necessary before and after unification, and also to negotiate for the North to be designated special status EU and to have continued access to EU funds post Brexit.

The report states: “Brexit means that the best future for the citizens of Northern Ireland could well be remaining in the European Union in a reunified Ireland. This option must be explored.”

Sinn Féin MP, Elisha McCallion, has said the report launch “makes the case for the need for a Joint-Oireachtas Committee on Irish Unity much more compelling,” adding: “The establishment of such a committee would further research, develop and utilise the detail collated in this report and also help action and scrutinise government obligations on planning for unity within the context of both the Good Friday Agreement and the negative ramifications of Brexit.”

SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood MLA also welcomed the report and repeated his call for nationalism across the island to advance the process of mapping Irish unity in a way that includes and respects all traditions. He said: “The SDLP continues to believe that Irish unification is the biggest and the best idea around. This report should now prompt a national discussion on unity, our constitutional and economic future that includes and respects all traditions on the island.”

“Irish nationalism needs to get down to the kind of work undertaken by Scottish nationalists in advance of their independence referendum.”

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