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'No one knows where this is all going to end up': Leaders meet to discuss Brexit fallout

Gerry Adams has said “an alternative to Brexit” should be found.

2/11/2016. Brexit Conference. Taoiseach Enda Kenny Kenny ahead of the talks today Source: Eamonn Farrell/RollingNews.ie

POLITICAL LEADERS AND representatives of businesses, trade unions and local authorities are meeting in Dublin today to discuss the potential consequences of Brexit.

The discussions are taking place at the Royal Hospital Kilmainham and are being led by Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan.

In his opening address, Kenny said: “Brexit is an issue that has the potential to impact everybody on this Island – north and south.

“It has implications for so many aspects of our relationship. It presents the most significant economic and social challenge of the past 50 years.

That is why it is so important for us to have a conversation on what this means to all of us. That is why we have sought to have the broadest possible attendance at today’s event, from across the island.

“It is an opportunity to consider how best to deal with the challenges that lie ahead and ensure the best possible outcome for Ireland and for Northern Ireland.”

All political parties north and south were invited to attend today’s talks, but both the Democratic Unionist Party and the Ulster Unionist Party refused.

DUP party leader and Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster dismissed the event as a talking shop for “remoaners” – people who wanted Britain to remain in the European Union.

Several politicians expressed their disappointment that Foster is not attending the discussions today.

16/7/2016. Sinn Fein Meetings File photo of Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness Source: Photo Rollingnews

Speaking to reporters on the way into the event, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said this was “a matter of disappointment” and the DUP “can’t avoid this conversation”.

“Rather than merely looking at the consequences of Brexit, we need to look for alternatives to Brexit … We would be arguing for designated special status for the north within the European Union. Our preferred approach would be a united Ireland, others have a different view.”

Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister Martin McGuinness added: “There is a huge responsibility on governments north and south to work together to agree a common platform, effectively to negotiate both with the British government and the European Union.”

Speaking of British Prime Minister Theresa May saying she will invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty by next March, to formally start the process of Britain leaving the EU, McGuinness said: “We are now on the cusp of something very, very challenging for all of us … No one knows where this is all going to end up.”

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin said of Foster not attending: “It is disappointing, but we have to continue to work through various channels to make sure that we’re all on the same page in terms of the challenges that face us and indeed the solutions that we need to find together to make sure that we can protect the people on the island from the potential negative impacts of Brexit.”

Colum Eastwood, SDLP leader, said it was “a huge mistake” for Foster to not attend.

I think it’s important now that, no matter what position we held in the referendum, we begin the process of defending the rights and voices of the people of the north in this process.

He added that Foster “needs to wake up and understand that nobody is trying to poach her investors”.

Flanagan also spoke about this, saying comments Foster made about Ireland trying to poach investors from the north post-Brexit were “unhelpful”.

Opinion: The big Brexit question: ‘Should we side with the UK or the EU?’

Read: Foster’s accusations that Ireland is poaching investors “absolutely incorrect”

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Órla Ryan

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