The Northern Catholic Bishops have written to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Prime Minister Boris Johnson regarding the current negotiations on Brexit. Head of the EU Task Force for Relations with the United Kingdom, Michel Barnier, and various key US officials (including Nancy Pelosi and NI Special Envoy, Mick Mulvaney) have also received the letter.
Bishops stressed that any deal agreed on Brexit ‘must uphold and maintain the detailed provisions and principles of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, in all its parts.’ The letter also urged the international community to use its leverage in trade and other negotiations surrounding Brexit to ensure that the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement is respected and to avoid any return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.
Bishops said, “Any deal which is agreed on Brexit must uphold and maintain the detailed provisions and principles of the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement, in all its parts. This Agreement, which has been the vital cornerstone of progress towards peace in Northern Ireland, is so essential to our shared vision for the future that it cannot be undermined in any way.”
On the danger of potential border infrastructure, Bishops said, “As the UK government has now announced that it will break its obligations under that legal agreement, we must warn that a return to any border apparatus on this island (even if it be for customs and trade checks only) would be a dangerous backward step.
“At this decisive time, we are urging the international community – which contributed so much on both sides of the Atlantic to the achievement of our peace process – to use the influence and diplomatic leverage they have in trade and other negotiations surrounding Brexit to ensure that the Good Friday/Belfast Agreement is respected and to avoid any return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.”
Bishops emphasised the unique position of Northern Ireland as a post conflict society, and outlined the continued work against paramilitary activity and sectarianism. Bishops called on leaders to use their influence to prevent a Brexit scenario that would provoke a return to violence of any kind in the region of Northern Ireland.
In conclusion, Bishops said, “The call of many during the Covid-19 pandemic has been to stand together and we feel that this cry is of utmost relevance to this debate. The globalisation of our world teaches us that regardless of the outcome of negotiations, it is inevitable that our futures on these islands will be inextricably linked and so there is no longer any place for retreating to factional allegiances. Standing together and working toward shared objectives we can achieve so much more in the pursuit of justice, peace and sustainable development for our own communities, for Europe and for the world.”
To read the full letter, click here.