Taoiseach urged to defend Irish citizens in Northern Ireland over Brexit

PUBLISHED: 12:22 05 November 2018 | UPDATED: 12:22 05 November 2018

When Irish eyes aren't smiling


One thousand nationalists from across Ireland have sent a joint letter to the Taoiseach urging him to defend the rights of Irish citizens north of the border amid Brexit uncertainty.

The letter to Leo Varadkar has been signed by actors, academics, professional athletes, entrepreneurs, lawyers, teachers, doctors and a range of other figures from within civic nationalism.

The signatories include Republic of Ireland international footballer James McClean, actors Adrian Dunbar and Ciaran McMenamin, film director Jim Sheridan and folk musicians Tommy Sands and Colm Sands.

Two similar letters have been penned to the Taoiseach in the last 12 months, one from a number of nationalists based in Northern Ireland and one from nationalists residing south of the border.

The latest, which was sent on Friday and published in the Irish News today as a two-page advert, has the largest number of signatures and is an all-island endeavour.

The letter welcomes Varadkar's pledge to defend the interests of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland through the Brexit process but blames the Stormont powersharing impasse, which has seen the region without devolved government for almost two years, for "denying" certain "rights" to people north of the border.

It highlights Democratic Unionist opposition to same-sex marriage and an Irish Language Act as two key issues of concern.

The letter adds: "As you know these rights are now taken for granted by citizens in other parts of these islands.

"The British Conservative government has rendered itself unable to effect any progress on these rights issues due to its dependence on the DUP.

"Brexit threatens to deepen the rights crisis and there is a real danger of serious erosion of current guarantees."

On Brexit, the letter raises concerns about access to free healthcare in EU countries, a potential hike to the cost of attending university in the Irish Republic and the fact Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland will no longer be represented in the European Parliament.

The letter continues: "There is a very real potential that partition could be reinforced, and our country and our people further divided.

"This is a source of grave concern to all of us.

"We, as Irish citizens, urge you to adhere to your commitment that we would 'never again be left behind by an Irish Government' and to redouble your efforts, and the efforts of your government, to ensure that our rights are protected."

Plans for the latest letter were first reported last month by the Co Fermanagh-based newspaper, the Impartial Reporter, which interviewed Enniskillen-born actor McMenamin about his rationale for signing it.

He told the paper he was concerned that the imposition of a hard border post-Brexit could spark violence.

"Brexit and a border causing violence is a possibility and one that should never be overlooked but Brexit and a border causing economic chaos is a fact and one that is being totally overlooked by the DUP," he said.

"It won't make anyone more British, it will just make everyone poorer."

Belfast lawyer Niall Murphy, who has been involved in compiling the letter, said every section of nationalist civic life was represented among the signatories.

"That this letter is signed by over a thousand leaders from the nationalist community is a testament to an evolving earthquake in terms of an awakening of nationalist confidence," he said.

"The 1,000 names are symbolic, the letter is not a petition, but a representative sample of the views of hundreds of thousands of people across the north and indeed across the entire island."

You've seen the news, now discover the story

The New European is committed to providing in-depth analysis of the Brexit process, its implications and progress as well as celebrating European life.

Try 13 weeks for £13

Support The New European's vital role as a voice for the 48%

The New European is proud of its journalism and we hope you are proud of it too. We believe our voice is important - both in representing the pro-EU perspective and also to help rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

  • Become a friend of The New European for a contribution of £48. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish)
  • Become a partner of The New European for a contribution of £240. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook
  • Become a patron of The New European for a contribution of £480. You will qualify for a mention in our newspaper (should you wish) and receive a New European Branded Pen and Notebook and an A3 print of The New European front cover of your choice, signed by Editor Matt Kelly

By proceeding, you agree to the New Europeans supporters club Terms & Conditions which can be found here.

Supporter Options

Mention Me in The New European

If Yes, Name to appear in The New European

Latest Articles


Grassroots anti-Brexit campaigners are increasing the pressure on politicians ahead of a series of important votes this year. Here is a list of the events organised across Britain in the coming weeks and months.


Newsletter Sign Up

The New European weekly newsletter
Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy