I join others in congratulating the Tánaiste on his hard work and that of his officials. We all support their efforts. His recent trip to the US was a great success, in that it galvanised Irish America. The support of Congressman Richard Neal and the House Ways and Means Committee is enormous, as it sent a message to the UK that Irish America and its powerful position on that committee, which will decide on the future trade arrangements between the US and the UK, will not support any trade arrangement. When we met Congressman Neal and other Irish American Congressmen, they told us that they wanted to know where the border between the UK and Ireland and the EU would be and how it would function. They wanted Britain to sign up to the backstop, which people seem to forget it negotiated. Those congressmen are concerned about the Good Friday Agreement and the peace.
We are discussing the Border poll and related matters. The issue of unification is not just a name or aspiration. As the former Attorney General, Mr. Rory Brady, stated, achieving it is a constitutional imperative and an obligation, not simply an aspiration to have. The policy neglect in that context that we are currently suffering needs to be resolved. I agree with Deputy O’Dowd about the roadmap, but one of the concerns about that relate to the Belfast High Court case last year in which Mr. Justice Paul Girvan ruled that, although it would be prudent for the Secretary of State to have a policy on how a referendum would be called and how she would determine that the majority of people were in favour of a referendum, he could not legally require her to do so. Although we need clarification in this regard, it is not a matter for the next 36 days. That conversation around a new agreed Ireland – a vision that we can all share of the best future for everyone in the island – is probably not for the 36 days.
I wish to bring the Tánaiste’s attention to a report – I partly assisted in compiling it – by two experts on preventing violent extremism. Professors Pat Dolan and Mark Brennan are chairs in UNESCO. This is about having facts. Their view is that, if there is a return to a hard border, there will be a return to violence. The question is the scale of the violence. It is important for the UK Government to listen. It needs to know. When the UK had its debate on the Brexit referendum, it did not have the facts. If the UK Government is deciding to do a U-turn on the backstop, it needs to be aware of the fact that there will not just be economic consequences for this island, but also circumstances that we do not want to see returning. There was a reason for the Good Friday Agreement and the backstop, and it is the reason we do not want a U-turn on the latter.
I thank the Chair for allowing me to contribute and the Tánaiste for attending the meeting.