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What does Brexit mean for Northern Ireland?

Multiple Sinn Féin party figures either side of the border have called for a poll, but Taoiseach Enda Kenny says conditions are not currently met.

Sinn Féin have called for a poll on Irish unity following the EU referendum result.

Chairman Declan Kearney said:

We have a situation where the north is going to be dragged out on the tails of a vote in England. . . . The British Government has now forfeited its mandate to represent the north of Ireland.

Martin McGuiness echoed his sentiments:

The British government now has no democratic mandate to represent the views of the North in any future negotiations with the European Union and I do believe that there is a democratic imperative for a 'border poll' to be held.

We are now in unchartered waters, nobody really knows what is going to happen. The implications for all of us on the island of Ireland are absolutely massive. This could have very profound implications for our economy (in Northern Ireland).

. . . .

The people of the north of Ireland, nationalists, republicans, unionists and others have made it clear at the polls that they wish to remain in the EU. 

Martina Anderson, an MEP for Northern Ireland who is also a former IRA member and bomber released in 1998 under the terms of the Good Friday agreement, has said the onus is on the British government to call a border poll.

There is an onus on the British government to recognise the vote in the devolved administrations and there is on onus on them to provide answers for the several unanswered questions that the people of the north have.

Sinn Féin will now be pushing for a border poll, a measure agreed upon in the Good Friday Agreement 18 years ago, to provide Irish citizens with the right to vote for an end to partition and to retain a role in the EU.

MEP Liadh Ní Riada has also called for a border poll:

56% of the electorate in the north have rejected the right-wing agenda of the British Tory party, yet English votes have overturned their democratic will.

Meanwhile RTÉ, the state broadcaster for the Republic of Ireland, has said that “Northern Ireland is now set to become the only part of the UK with a land border between it and an EU member”.

In Northern Ireland, where there were was a 56% vote for Remain, a border poll can be called if there is clear evidence of public opinion swinging towards Irish unity.

Enda Kenny: "We must use this breathing space wisely" 

In a press conference, Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said that Britain and Ireland must "take this breathing space and use it wisely" and has promised to act in the best interests of the people of the island, "both north and south".

In the short term, there will be "no change" to the movement of people and services between the UK and Ireland, Kenny says.

He added, however, that "the implications of this vote for Northern Ireland and for relations North and South on this Island will require careful consideration."

This will be of particular priority for the government:

We will approach these issues in the same spirit of partnership that has underpinned the peace process and has transformed relationships ont his island since the Good Friday agreement.

I welcome the clear statement from the Prime Minister this morning that the interests in NI will be fully reflected in the negotiating position of the British government.

I will meet with colleagues from the NI executive on Monday week . . . where we will have detailed discussions on how best to discuss these new circumstances.

What will happen to the CTA?

Kenny says the will do upmost to uphold the Common Travel Area and "minimise any possible disruptions to the flow of people, of goods and of services between these islands."

"We are acutely aware", Kenny added, "of the concerns that will be felt by . . . the Irish communtiy in Britain. Let me assure them that the Irish government will also have their interests in our thinking. "While Ireland's future lies within the European Union, Ireland's very strong relationship with the United Kingdom will continue to strengthen."

The government's other immediate concern is "the impact on the European Union itself." Kenny says it is "profoundly" in Ireland's national interest to remain in the EU. "We must now, however, begin a period of reflection and debate on how we can renew the union of '27 and equip it for the many challenges that lie ahead."

There will be a discussion at the meeting of the European Council next week, where Kenny intends to ensure that Ireland's national interests are "fully represented".

Asked about a potential border poll, Kenny said that it's "obviously . . . contained in the Good Friday Agreement" that if the secretary of state sees a shift in public opinion, they may call for a poll. He currently does not believe this is the case.

The Dáil will be recalled on Monday.

Stephanie Boland is digital assistant at the New Statesman. She tweets at @stephanieboland

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The deafening killer - why noise will be the next great pollution scandal

A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. 

Our cities are being poisoned by a toxin that surrounds us day and night. It eats away at our brains, hurts our hearts, clutches at our sleep, and gnaws at the quality of our daily lives.

Hardly a silent killer, it gets short shrift compared to the well-publicised terrors of air pollution and sugars food. It is the dull, thumping, stultifying drum-beat of perpetual noise.

The score that accompanies city life is brutal and constant. It disrupts the everyday: The coffee break ruined by the screech of a line of double decker buses braking at the lights. The lawyer’s conference call broken by drilling as she makes her way to the office. The writer’s struggle to find a quiet corner to pen his latest article.

For city-dwellers, it’s all-consuming and impossible to avoid. Construction, traffic, the whirring of machinery, the neighbour’s stereo. Even at home, the beeps and buzzes made by washing machines, fridges, and phones all serve to distract and unsettle.

But the never-ending noisiness of city life is far more than a problem of aesthetics. A growing body of evidence shows that noise can have serious health impacts too. Recent studies have linked noise pollution to hearing loss, sleep deprivation, hypertension, heart disease, brain development, and even increased risk of dementia.

One research team compared families living on different stories of the same building in Manhattan to isolate the impact of noise on health and education. They found children in lower, noisier floors were worse at reading than their higher-up peers, an effect that was most pronounced for children who had lived in the building for longest.

Those studies have been replicated for the impact of aircraft noise with similar results. Not only does noise cause higher blood pressure and worsens quality of sleep, it also stymies pupils trying to concentrate in class.

As with many forms of pollution, the poorest are typically the hardest hit. The worst-off in any city often live by busy roads in poorly-insulated houses or flats, cheek by jowl with packed-in neighbours.

The US Department of Transport recently mapped road and aircraft noise across the United States. Predictably, the loudest areas overlapped with some of the country’s most deprived. Those included the south side of Atlanta and the lowest-income areas of LA and Seattle.

Yet as noise pollution grows in line with road and air traffic and rising urban density, public policy has turned a blind eye.

Council noise response services, formally a 24-hour defence against neighbourly disputes, have fallen victim to local government cuts. Decisions on airport expansion and road development pay scant regard to their audible impact. Political platforms remain silent on the loudest poison.

This is odd at a time when we have never had more tools at our disposal to deal with the issue. Electric Vehicles are practically noise-less, yet noise rarely features in the arguments for their adoption. Just replacing today’s bus fleet would transform city centres; doing the same for taxis and trucks would amount to a revolution.

Vehicles are just the start. Millions were spent on a programme of “Warm Homes”; what about “Quiet Homes”? How did we value the noise impact in the decision to build a third runway at Heathrow, and how do we compensate people now that it’s going ahead?

Construction is a major driver of decibels. Should builders compensate “noise victims” for over-drilling? Or could regulation push equipment manufacturers to find new ways to dampen the sound of their kit?

Of course, none of this addresses the noise pollution we impose on ourselves. The bars and clubs we choose to visit or the music we stick in our ears. Whether pumping dance tracks in spin classes or indie rock in trendy coffee shops, people’s desire to compensate for bad noise out there by playing louder noise in here is hard to control for.

The Clean Air Act of 1956 heralded a new era of city life, one where smog and grime gave way to clear skies and clearer lungs. That fight still goes on today.

But some day, we will turn our attention to our clogged-up airwaves. The decibels will fall. #Twitter will give way to twitter. And every now and again, as we step from our homes into city life, we may just hear the sweetest sound of all. Silence.

Adam Swersky is a councillor in Harrow and is cabinet member for finance. He writes in a personal capacity.