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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

Photo: Getty
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The rise of the green mayor – Sadiq Khan and the politics of clean energy

At an event at Tate Modern, Sadiq Khan pledged to clean up London's act.

On Thursday night, deep in the bowls of Tate Modern’s turbine hall, London Mayor Sadiq Khan renewed his promise to make the capital a world leader in clean energy and air. Yet his focus was as much on people as power plants – in particular, the need for local authorities to lead where central governments will not.

Khan was there to introduce the screening of a new documentary, From the Ashes, about the demise of the American coal industry. As he noted, Britain continues to battle against the legacy of fossil fuels: “In London today we burn very little coal but we are facing new air pollution challenges brought about for different reasons." 

At a time when the world's leaders are struggling to keep international agreements on climate change afloat, what can mayors do? Khan has pledged to buy only hybrid and zero-emissions buses from next year, and is working towards London becoming a zero carbon city.

Khan has, of course, also gained heroic status for being a bête noire of climate-change-denier-in-chief Donald Trump. On the US president's withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, Khan quipped: “If only he had withdrawn from Twitter.” He had more favourable things to say about the former mayor of New York and climate change activist Michael Bloomberg, who Khan said hailed from “the second greatest city in the world.”

Yet behind his humour was a serious point. Local authorities are having to pick up where both countries' central governments are leaving a void – in improving our air and supporting renewable technology and jobs. Most concerning of all, perhaps, is the way that interest groups representing business are slashing away at the regulations which protect public health, and claiming it as a virtue.

In the UK, documents leaked to Greenpeace’s energy desk show that a government-backed initiative considered proposals for reducing EU rules on fire-safety on the very day of the Grenfell Tower fire. The director of this Red Tape Initiative, Nick Tyrone, told the Guardian that these proposals were rejected. Yet government attempts to water down other EU regulations, such as the energy efficiency directive, still stand.

In America, this blame-game is even more highly charged. Republicans have sworn to replace what they describe as Obama’s “war on coal” with a war on regulation. “I am taking historic steps to lift the restrictions on American energy, to reverse government intrusion, and to cancel job-killing regulations,” Trump announced in March. While he has vowed “to promote clean air and clear water,” he has almost simultaneously signed an order to unravel the Clean Water Rule.

This rhetoric is hurting the very people it claims to protect: miners. From the Ashes shows the many ways that the industry harms wider public health, from water contamination, to air pollution. It also makes a strong case that the American coal industry is in terminal decline, regardless of possibile interventions from government or carbon capture.

Charities like Bloomberg can only do so much to pick up the pieces. The foundation, which helped fund the film, now not only helps support job training programs in coal communities after the Trump administration pulled their funding, but in recent weeks it also promised $15m to UN efforts to tackle climate change – again to help cover Trump's withdrawal from Paris Agreement. “I'm a bit worried about how many cards we're going to have to keep adding to the end of the film”, joked Antha Williams, a Bloomberg representative at the screening, with gallows humour.

Hope also lies with local governments and mayors. The publication of the mayor’s own environment strategy is coming “soon”. Speaking in panel discussion after the film, his deputy mayor for environment and energy, Shirley Rodrigues, described the move to a cleaner future as "an inevitable transition".

Confronting the troubled legacies of our fossil fuel past will not be easy. "We have our own experiences here of our coal mining communities being devastated by the closure of their mines," said Khan. But clean air begins with clean politics; maintaining old ways at the price of health is not one any government must pay. 

'From The Ashes' will premiere on National Geograhpic in the United Kingdom at 9pm on Tuesday, June 27th.

India Bourke is an environment writer and editorial assistant at the New Statesman.

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