The NI leader of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions calls for pro-European mandate of NI elections to be respected

3 Mar 2017

Speaking this morning to delegates at the Northern conference of the INTO in Newcastle, Co Down, ICTU Assistant General Secretary Owen Reidy said:

“The eviction of Northern Ireland from the EU will have profound and lasting implications for this society, politically, economically, socially and culturally.

“We in the trade union movement campaigned for “Remain” and we are particularly concerned that the issue of consent, which was and remains a critical and central plank of building the peace, is a very important issue that cannot and should not be dismissed. But consent is being ignored.

“Yet again people have voted yesterday for a majority of political parties who supported to Remain, and regardless of whether the NI Executive is resurrected or Direct Rule is imposed, the Secretary of Starte James Brokenshire and the Westminster government must respect the will of the people of Northern Ireland.

“We hear rhetoric from many in the political class at Westminster of seeking to protect the Common Travel Area and having a “frictionless” border. However, if you prioritise stopping immigration over trade (as the Tory government have done) and take NI out of the EU, the Single Market and the Customs Union against its will, despite the rhetoric, you will have a more divisive and firmer border than we have known and no amount of vacuous rhetoric can unfortunately wish this away.

“We are also disappointed that the political class in NI have clearly dropped the ball in seeking to influence Brexit. A hard Brexit will potentially result in the destruction of thousands of jobs in Northern Ireland and will affect real living standards. There has been no real engagement with civic society on this critically important issue, given the current political vacuum and crisis. We believe this issue is too important to be left to politicians alone, be they in Westminster and/or Stormont.

We believe civic society needs to find its voice on Brexit and we in the trade union movement are seeking to engage with other representative bodies across NI such as the Community and Voluntary sector, the CBI and the farmers to try and build a clear united voice to ensure that the concerns of workers and society at large in Northern Ireland are articulated and heard. Whichever way people voted, they surely didn’t vote for lower living standards for themselves and their families.

We must therefore seek to ensure that workers do not pay the price of Brexit.”Please note details on the seminar NIC-ICTU are organising on the issue of Brexit. The event is taking place in the Girdwood Community Hub on Wednesday 29th March from 10.00am-3.30pm:http://www.ictuni.org/publications/nicictu-brexit-seminar-29-march-2017/