Brexit - The view in Ireland
Brexit - The view in Ireland



Responses from the Irish nationalist and republican political parties to the Brexit referendum.




Colum Eastwood, SDLP


Last week Northern Ireland spoke loudly and clearly - we voted to stay in the European Union.

A chorus of voices across the political spectrum, and particularly those of our young people, voted to remain as part of Europe.

These are the people who can proclaim victory in Northern Ireland, despite the wider defeat of progressive European politics at the hands of narrow English nationalism.

Put very simply, the future chosen by people in England is not the future chosen by the Irish people. We have democratically chosen to remain as part of the European Union.

In the north, nationalists and unionists alike gave that judgement. The sooner the First Minister Arlene Foster accepts and respects that reality, the better.

The swirling uncertainty of a Brexit must now be met with a firm determination to protect the Irish national interest. The SDLP will be fighting to ensure this happens. That will require the Irish government and all parties across the island to defend the agreements and progress which stretch back to 1998.

We will defend Northern Ireland’s position in the European Union. That means immediate discussions with governments in Dublin, Edinburgh and elsewhere in Europe as well as directly with the EU in Brussels.

This requires co-operation from all parties in the Assembly who supported the campaign to remain. The DUP’s minority voice cannot become a veto on progress or democracy.

The Scottish First Minister has made it clear that the Scottish Parliament will not consent to any UK government notification to leave the European Union. The Northern Ireland Assembly must respect the views of the people of Northern Ireland and do the same - we cannot and will not consent to steps by London to leave the European Union.

In addition, there can be no return to a physical border across this island. There must remain freedom of movement for people, goods and services across Ireland. What we have, we must hold. For the sake of our economy we must also now ensure the full and fast integration of economic interests across this island. This is now driven as much by necessity as it is by political ideology.

We must also assure EU citizens living here today that your position will not change. In the coming days and weeks, all Irish people have a responsibility to reach out to those from abroad who have made their home here and ensure they feel welcome.

These events mean we have undoubtedly started on a journey toward re-unification, but we should be honest enough to acknowledge that we have still a way to travel.

Making that possible requires a progressive nationalism which has the maturity to understand that a credible vision for unity will not be made in the image of any one political party. Irish nationalism must also no longer be an idea to which we are merely born into. It must be about belief, not birth. It must be based on the practical, not the pre-determined.

From now on, that is what each Irish passport will represent. Each and every one will be a symbol that we choose progress and prosperity over fear and febrile politics. I urge everyone who doesn’t already hold an Irish passport to today take the first steps to safeguarding their European Union citizenship.

It is progressive Irish nationalism, and that nationalism alone, which is capable of building the broad consensus needed to shape the Ireland before us. That consensus will strengthen in the months and years ahead as the full horror of Brexit unveils itself. Our journey starts now.




Martin McGuinness, Sinn Fein


The vote by a majority of people in Britain to leave the EU has created a real crisis in our economy, for our people and for relationships across Ireland. It was not a referendum that was demanded here.

It was brought about by in-fighting within the British Tory party. It was a referendum that was opposed by the vast majority of citizens here.

People were united in their support to remain in the EU. That position, definitively expressed by voters from across the community, must be respected.

There are some who simply want to draw a line under the referendum and move on. It is not over. It is a live issue and one in which the implications are now being fully revealed.

It is up to all parties and both governments to fully respect the vote of the people here to remain. As leaders it is up to us to stand up for the needs of the people on the island of Ireland.

We need an island-wide vision and an all Ireland approach to the EU. The Brexit vote presents a historic challenge but also an extraordinary opportunity to continue the process to end the injustice of partition and to build a new Ireland.

The fact that the border will now become an international frontier between an EU member state and a non-member state creates particular concerns for the people of this island.

There is now a huge responsibility on the Irish government to think and act nationally. In the real sense of that word that means 32 counties.

The government, as a co-equal guarantor of the agreement, also has a responsibility to defend the Good Friday Agreement and its political institutions.

It is an agreement built on the operation of relationships, within the North, between the North and South and between Britain and the island of Ireland. The British decision has the potential to fundamentally undermine these relationships.

That must be resisted. Sinn Fein believes that can best be achieved by those on the remain side working together with the Irish Government to uphold the vote of the electorate in the north.

The British government cannot claim to represent the North at an EU Level. Their policy has been rejected by the people.Ministers on the Executive should now deal directly with the EU institutions and others to discuss our future relationships.

I have met with Arlene Foster and the party leaders in the Assembly to discuss how we give effect to the vote of the people here. I have also requested an urgent meeting with Enda Kenny to make him aware of the need for an all-Ireland response.

The Irish Government must work to promote the interests of the whole island and the north in particular in future talks at an EU level. The task of everyone now must be to agree policies and strategies to give effect to the people’s vote in the North, and to create a new Ireland and a new EU.

That means:

:: Insisting that the Irish government defend the interests of the island of Ireland at the EU Council meeting this week and in any future negotiations.

:: Ensuring full cooperation between the Irish government and the Executive.

:: Insisting that the Irish government, as a co-equal guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, defend it, its political institutions, and cross-border bodies.

:: Ensuring that the equality and human rights elements of the Good Friday Agreement are protected.

:: Grasping the opportunity to redesign the constitutional and political future of the island of Ireland and of Europe.

:: Demanding a referendum of Irish unity. It is the duty of all of us to ensure that these changes are progressive and to the benefit of all the people of this island and our economy.



1916 Societies


The ‘Brexit’ result creates an immediate imperative for Irish Unity and a New All-Ireland Republic. For republicans and nationalists at this time, the task at hand is to agree a unity of purpose and an effective strategy to realise that end.

The same requires that the Irish people, freely and without impediment, determine together the ‘New Ireland’ - as is their democratic entitlement. For the 1916 Societies, an All-Ireland Referendum is best placed to speed that process. Likewise, it can best resolve the contradictions thrown up by the result in Britain and its impact here in Ireland, which Britain continues to occupy.

We note immediate moves - already rejected by Britain - on the part of the leadership of New Sinn Fein towards a so-called ‘border poll’. Such a poll is in reality a device to withhold the national rights of the Irish people and to deny Irish sovereignty. Sinn Fein know only too well that an Independent Republic can never be achieved through such a poll, that even were it to be held and won it sets in train ‘Good Friday Mk.II’ and not the Irish Republic.

Furthermore, attempts to equate and link a border poll to the notion of a national referendum are currently underfoot. Despite repeated requests of Sinn Fein to detail what they propose by a ‘Referendum on Irish Unity’, which they again made mention of today, they have offered nothing to the people of Ireland in response.

We submit that they seek to muddy the demand for an All-Ireland Referendum and deliberately sow confusion at this critical time - all to avoid it being exposed that the British Triple Lock they agreed to be bound by represents a permanent barrier to Irish national sovereignty.

No matter. The argument those intent on change need now to bring forward is not that an undemocratic border poll, which denies the rights of our people, should determine the constitutional future of Ireland - whether dressed in the language of a referendum or otherwise. Our argument instead must be that Britain should leave Ireland and allow our people to freely exercise their right to independence.

For the 1916 Societies, the changed circumstance that is ‘Brexit’ reinforces our longstanding belief that the time is now right for Irish self-determination. We assert that an All-Ireland Referendum on Irish Unity should be brought forward with immediate effect, that an Independent and 32-County Republic should proceed forthwith from the same.

We call on all republicans, with other progressive forces in Ireland, to coalesce behind that position. From there, a ‘New Ireland’ can be agreed by our people. It should be a given that Britain has no role in such a process, which is a matter for the Irish people alone. The time for that process is now and the work to realise its object should begin at once.




Brian Leeson, Eirigi


The result of the EU Referendum can only be seen as a defeat for the business and political elite of Ireland, Britain and Europe. The EU superstate project has been struck a massive blow by millions of working class people across England, Scotland, Wales and occupied Ireland.

Over the last decade Eirigi has consistently highlighted the deeply flawed nature of the EU. In three separate referendums in the Twenty-Six Counties we have encouraged voters to reject an EU superstate that is militarised, anti-democratic and fundamentally wedded to a destructive neo-liberal ideology.

Over the last number of weeks our activists have again been on the ground in Belfast and elsewhere distributing tens of thousands of leaflets and posters calling on people to oppose the EU superstate by voting Leave.

Despite the hysterical scare-mongering of Sinn Fein and the other pro-EU parties our activists succeeded in getting the socialist Leave message to the people on the ground. I commend them for the part they played in today’s historic result.

Like Connolly and the others leaders of the 1916 Rising we believe that the Irish people should be in full control of their own destinies, free from external interference from London, Brussels or Washington. Without such control the people of Ireland will not be able to build the democratically-controlled economy and fair society that they are entitled to and deserve.

The British occupation of the Six Counties and the de facto EU control of the Twenty-Six County state represent twin barriers to the creation of a Republic that will genuinely cherish all the children of the nation equally.

We correctly identified that a Leave vote had a once-in-a-generation potential to trigger a constitutional crisis within both the EU and the British ‘Union’. That position has been vindicated by today’s calls for referendums in Ireland, Scotland and elsewhere.

The momentum from today must now be built on to restore full national democracy and freedom to Ireland. We use the opportunity of today’s result to again demand that the British ruling class respect the inherent and indefeasible Right of the people of Ireland to collectively decide their own future without external impediment.

The creeping transfer of sovereignty from Ireland to the anti-democratic institutions of the EU must also be halted and reversed. The campaign for a full Irish withdrawal from an irreformable EU must now be built in parallel to the campaign for a withdrawal of the British state from Ireland.

The constitutional status quo in Ireland, Britain and Europe is now in a state of flux that has not been seen in decades. The ruling elite will do all in their power to limit that change, to shut down people power and their demand for a just society.

The forces of the progressive Left in Ireland need to seize the moment and push for maximum constitutional, political, social and economic change. We in Eirigi are ready to play our part in driving that change and building an independent socialist Ireland.’




Francis Mackey, 32 County Sovereignty Movement


The result of the so-called Brexit Referendum brings into national and international focus the issue of Irish national sovereignty and its continuing violation by the Westminster parliament. It is inconceivable that the glaring contradiction of British occupation in Ireland and its withdrawal from the EU on the pretext of taking back its sovereignty should not now be immediately addressed.

If, as they have argued, it is for the British people to determine their own destinies they must extend that logic to the people of Ireland. It is no longer acceptable that the future of Ireland be determined by a British imposed gerrymander in the six counties. Calls for border polls are a deficient response to the magnitude of this event. Partition has no place in the exercise of Irish sovereignty - it is an imperialist relic and a continuing source of conflict between our two countries.

There is now an onus on the Dublin government to pursue the logic of Irish unity beyond the illogical and undemocratic constraints of the Good Friday Agreement. In this the centenary year of 1916 it is to the Proclamation that Dublin should ground its political and constitutional approach to Irish unity and abandon utterly its Home Rule sentiments.

We call on Irish republicans to coalesce around a renewed and contemporary republican message for the people of Ireland. We must make our voice heard to those who need to hear it. We must possess the political acumen and strength to take advantage of these significant events or watch them drift into sterile conformity. The time to act is now. The way to act is to do so together.




Des Dalton, Republican Sinn Fein


The result of the British Referendum on membership of the EU is to be welcomed on two levels. Firstly, it strikes a blow against the modern imperialism of the undemocratic EU superstate and will encourage further resistance across Europe. Secondly, it exposes the old imperialism and lack of democracy that lies at the heart of the so-called ‘United Kingdom’. It will hopefully unleash forces that will hasten it’s end. We would view the likelihood of a new referendum on Scottish Independence as a progressive step.

Unfortunately the British right were allowed to frame the argument about the British State’s membership of the EU. This does not in any way negate the progressive arguments which have been advance by those on the left including Sinn Fein since the formation of the then EEC in the 1950s. These are based on the fundamentally undemocratic nature of the EU project since birth politically as well as economically.

We are proud of our record of consistently opposing the construction of a militarised and undemocratic Superstate in every referenda held in the 26 Counties since the original referendum on membership of the EEC in 1972. This is the only position that Irish Republicans can hold if we are serious about creating an independent Ireland based on the principles of the 1916 Proclamation. There is no point in removing the shackles of British imperialism only to replace them with the political and economic imperialism of the EU.

We are entering a period of radical change which presents opportunities for those committed to fighting for real democracy not only within nations but also between nations. A community of free nations as envisaged by James Connolly. Within such a community of free nations an All-Ireland Federal Democratic Socialist Republic could take its rightful place.

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