SDLP Foyle Westminster candidate Mark Durkan has welcomed today’s Oireachtas address by EU Chief Brexit Negotiator Michel Barnier in which he said ‘Ireland’s interest will be the Union’s interest’ and that respecting all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement will be a key objective for the European Union.
Mr Durkan, who as a former deputy First Minister and Finance Minister, worked extensively with Mr Barnier in his capacity as former Commissioner for Regional Policy with responsibility for the PEACE Programme in Ireland, said:
“I welcome Michel Barnier’s reassurance to the Irish people that in the upcoming negotiations on Brexit ‘Ireland’s interest will be the Union’s interest’ and that respecting all aspects of the Good Friday Agreement will be a key objective for the European Union.
“Michel Barnier has been a long-standing friend of Ireland and has always shown a genuine empathy for the journey of reconciliation, consolidation and transformation.
“He has demonstrated not just a sensitive understanding of the institutional and constitutional dimensions of the Good Friday Agreement but also a keen appreciation of the contributions of the community and economic sectors in moving the peace process forward.
“Indeed, Michel Barnier is more aware of, and sensitive to, its dimensions than British government ministers – not least in terms of Strand 2 being deployed so that the North can be on a ‘lean to’ basis with the South for the purposes of EU constructs, programmes or particular policies.
“Based on my experience in the past, and all that we’re hearing now, I have more confidence in Michel Barnier’s motivation to respect and reflect the principles and precepts of the Good Friday Agreement in the forthcoming negotiations than the British government’s confused impulses.”