Taoiseach called for the defense of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland because of Brexit

Taoiseach called for the defense of Irish citizens in Northern Ireland because of Brexit

A thousand nationalists from all over Ireland have sent a joint letter to the Taoiseach, calling on them to defend the rights of Irish citizens north of the border in the face of uncertainty caused by Brexit and Stormont's political crisis.

The letter to Leo Varadkar was signed by actors, academics, professional athletes, businessmen, lawyers, teachers, doctors and a number of other people of bourgeois nationalism.

Signatories include Ireland's international footballer James McClean, actors Adrian Dunbar and Ciaran McMenamin, film director Jim Sheridan, and folk musicians Tommy Sands and Colm Sands.

Two similar letters have been written to the Taoiseach over the last 12 months, one of a number of nationalists based in Northern Ireland and one of nationalists residing south of the border.

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The last one, sent on Friday and published on Monday in the Irish News as a two-page ad, has the largest number of signatures and is a pure island company.

The letter welcomes Mr Varadkar's promise to defend the interests of Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland through the Brexit trial, but he accuses the Stormont dead-end, in which the region has been out of government for almost two years because it has certain 'rights' "" denies "people north of the border.

It highlights the opposition of the democratic unionists to same-sex marriages and an Irish language act as two major problems.

The letter adds: "As you know, these rights are taken for granted by citizens in other parts of these islands.

"The British conservative government has not been able to make progress on these rights issues because of its dependence on the DUP.

"Brexit threatens to deepen the legal crisis and there is a risk that the existing guarantees will be seriously eroded."

On Brexit, the letter expresses concerns about access to free healthcare in EU countries; a potential increase in the cost of attending university in the Republic of Ireland; and the fact that Irish citizens living in Northern Ireland are no longer represented in the European Parliament.

The letter goes on to say: "There is a very real potential to increase the division and continue to split our country and our people.

"This gives us all cause for great concern.

"As Irish citizens, we urge you to honor your commitment that we" will never be left behind by an Irish government "and to redouble your efforts and your government's efforts to ensure that our rights are protected."

Plans for the last letter were first reported last month by the Co-Fermanagh newspaper Impartial Reporter, who interviewed Enniskillen-born actor McMenamin about his reasons for signing.

He told the newspaper that he was worried that imposing a harsh border breakout after Brexit might provoke violence.

"Brexit and a border that causes violence are a possibility that should never be overlooked, but Brexit and a border that causes economic chaos is a fact that is completely overlooked by the DUP," he said.

"It will not make anyone British, it will make everyone poorer."

Belfast lawyer Niall Murphy, who helped draft the letter, said that every section of nationalist civic life was represented among the signatories.

"That this letter is signed by more than a thousand leaders of the nationalist community is evidence of a developing earthquake in the wake of nationalist confidence," he said.

"The 1,000 names are symbolic, the letter is not a petition, but a representative selection of views of hundreds of thousands of people in the North and around the island."

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