15 September 2016, The Tablet

Trouble at the border: Brexit highlights the insecure nature of Northern Ireland's politics


There is deep concern that the hard-won peace and prosperity will be damaged by the overall UK decision to leave

In the strange milieu that is Northern Irish politics, First Minister Arlene Foster, of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which supported leaving the EU in the June referendum, and Finance Minister Máirtín Ó Muilleoir of Sinn Féin, which supported remaining, separately met Brexit Secretary David Davis and the new Secretary of State for Northern Ireland James Brokenshire on 1 September.

According to Ó Muilleoir, the meeting was “frank but we are miles apart”. The next morning, Ó Muilleoir hosted a round table of business, tourism and public- and voluntary-sector leaders, who voiced their anxiety and concerns: tourism, the intertwined cross-border economies, the difficulties of planning at least two and a half years’ ahead, the need to be able to recruit EU and migrant labour, and uncertainties about funding.

In the past year, Northern Irish politics have arrived at an equilibrium. While the minority parties – the Alliance Party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) – chose to go into opposition after the Assembly elections in May, the DUP and Sinn Féin found a way to work together after the 2015 Fresh Start Agreement. They arrived at “a common purpose and an understanding that it is in everyone’s interests for the DUP and Sinn Féin to do well in delivery”, says Ó Muilleoir.

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