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Minister Flanagan sets out Ireland's views post UK referendum to Ambassadors from 75 countries

Diplomatic Relations, Minister Charles Flanagan, Press Releases, Ireland, 2016

- Highlights EU contribution to NI peace Process
- Irish priorities include preserving the "invisible border" & Common Travel Area

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan TD, today (Sunday) re-iterated the central role of the EU in the future of Ireland in an address to the Diplomatic Corps. Addressing ambassadors representing 75 countries on the occasion of Ireland's National Day of Remembrance, he spoke about the crucial role of the EU as a bridge for building friendship and partnership between those who had formerly been foes.

He said: “Without doubt, the period ahead will be very challenging for the European Union as it seeks to ensure that the United Kingdom remains a close partner while at the same time working to deliver even more effectively on the priority concerns of its citizens.

“The Irish Government deeply regrets but fully respects the course on which the recent referendum has set our British friends, even if the detail of their approach still remains largely to be defined. We regret the decision for the many reasons that we explained during the referendum campaign.

“Today let me emphasise today just one of the reasons for our deep regret. The context for the development of the warm relationship between our islands, which has transformed one of the great enmities of the past into a great friendship, has been our shared membership of the European Union over the last forty years. I strongly believe that the foundations of this friendship are strong and it will endure.

“I have spoken to several of my EU counterparts in recent days and I will continue these conversations over the coming weeks. I know that our EU partners understand well the uniquely close nature of Ireland’s relations with the United Kingdom and that, in the spirit of accommodation which characterises the European Union, they will be sensitive to our concerns which include the exceptionally close relationship between these islands, the sharing of a land border, the unique status of our citizens in the United Kingdom and, of course, the implications for the peace process to which I now turn.

“While also warmly recognizing the immense contribution of the United States and of our other friends around the world, the European Union to a large extent provided the wider context for the peace process. One thinks, for example, of Europe’s immensely generous financial contribution over many years which went well beyond any objective allocation criteria, a contribution effectively from the taxpayers of other European countries to assist and support our peace process.

“However, that benign EU context was and is much more fundamental than money. The fact that Ireland and the United Kingdom shared a common EU citizenship provided a space for reconciliation that transcended the zero-sum equation of British or Irish sovereignty. The Irish Government does not underestimate the sense of disquiet now felt by many people in Northern Ireland at the prospect of the loss of their connection to the European Union.

“While it is therefore very important to understand and acknowledge the European contribution to the peace process, and to address the complications and challenges which will arise in the new situation, I haven’t the slightest doubt that the peace process is embedded and irreversible. The Irish Government will continue to work intensively with the British Government and the Northern Ireland Executive to see how best collectively we can work to ensure that the gains of the last two decades are fully protected. Ireland, Britain and Northern Ireland share the common objective of preserving the Common Travel Area and an open border on the island of Ireland. These are the types of issues we are highlighting and, in due course, will be discussing in detail with our EU partners as we seek together to design arrangements to protect the peace process.

“As we today remember the conflicts which have scarred the European continent and wiped out successive generations of its young men, destroying the lives of families everywhere as we commemorate the Somme both yesterday in Dublin and in France last week, it is uplifting to note the maturity and ease of political relationships in Europe today; relationships which would have seemed literally incredible to the men in the trenches a century ago.

“Diplomacy is often about the important challenge of promoting trade and culture; and about the crucial responsibility of looking after our citizens abroad. But sometimes diplomacy can actually be about life and death as it has proved on this continent and later on this island.“