Post-Brexit “special status” for Northern Ireland key to preserving rights of Irish and British citizens

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan TD and President of Maynooth University, Professor Philip Nolan.
Monday, February 13, 2017 - 16:15

The need to secure some kind of “special status” for Northern Ireland in the Article 50 Brexit negotiations was an argument underscored by Maynooth University Professor John O’Brennan today. Professor O’Brennan was speaking at a special All-Island Civic Dialogue on Human Rights under the Good Friday Agreement, convened by Minister for Foreign Affairs Charles Flanagan TD and hosted by Maynooth University.
The protection for reciprocal rights for Irish and British citizens in both jurisdictions is critical to the functionality of the Good Friday Agreement, Professor O’Brennan said. The protection fostered by the Agreement impacts a large range of issues from pension provisions and child benefit rights to cross-border policing and security cooperation. He said a “Hard Brexit” scenario that does not take into account the unique status of Northern Ireland, particularly when it comes to human rights, would completely undermine the intent of the Agreement.
“One of the key questions pertaining to our discussions today is whether we can maintain the long standing reciprocal rights for Irish citizens in our respective jurisdictions. The Brexit negotiations need to protect the access to services for all citizens,” Professor O’Brennan said.
“It is also crucial that we maintain some role for the European Union in the peace process. It is undoubtedly the case that our common membership of the European Union over more than four decades allowed British and Irish officials to meet regularly on the margins of EU meetings, to develop both trust in and greater understanding of each other, and ultimately to cooperate more closely than ever before.”
The Maynooth University event included participation by approximately 100 representatives from civil society organisations and relevant stakeholders from across the island of Ireland. 
Speaking ahead of the event, Minister Flanagan said, “As a co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government takes with the utmost seriousness our duty to ensure that all provisions of the Agreement are upheld and secured throughout the process of the UK’s exit from the European Union. This sectoral dialogue is an extremely valuable opportunity to hear directly from experts and practitioners on how Brexit might impact Human Rights under the Good Friday Agreement and how we might respond.”
“The Good Friday Agreement is a shared framework to uphold and to utilise as we work together to manage the implications of Brexit,” added Minister Flanagan.
In opening the conference, Professor Philip Nolan, President of Maynooth University, recognised the importance of an all-island conversation about these issues and said Maynooth University was a fitting location for such dialogue: “The University has long enjoyed a special relationship with the northern part of this island. Our distinguished alumni include John Hume, who played such an important role in the civil rights movement and the peace process. The University also is home to the Edward Kennedy Institute for Conflict Intervention, a leading resource for research and training in the areas of negotiation and peacebuilding. As a University with extensive interests in human rights and social justice, we welcome the opportunity to host such an important all-island dialogue in the hope it can provide meaningful impact on the Brexit negotiations.”