Agenda item

Irish Backstop

Minutes:

Councillor McLaughlin stated that the recent House of Commons vote in Westminster regarding the Irish backstop had caused great concern.  She stated that the decision to allow the deposition of the backstop was taken against the wishes of the people in Northern Ireland and the DUP had demonstrated party interests over the people.   She emphasised the absolute necessity of having a legally binding backstop as stated within the Withdrawal Agreement to prevent a hard border on the island of Ireland.  She stated that the rejection of the backstop was an affront to the Good Friday Agreement and noted the words of the respected Irish Economist, ‘this is not an example of Britannia rules the waves, more of Britannia waives the rules’. 

 

Councillor McLaughlin Proposed, Seconded by Councillor Tierney

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Labour Party outlining our serious concerns at the Government’s attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have a disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region.

 

Councillor Gallagher referred to the motion carried by Council on 22 November 2018 and queried the validity of the motion from Councillor McLaughlin.

 

In response, the Lead Legal Services Officer advised that there was no contradiction between Councillor McLaughlin’s proposal and the Motion passed by Council on 22 November 2018 and therefore would not be classed as a rescinding motion.

 

Alderman Ramsey stated that the decision taken by Parliament at Westminster was a democratic one.  He referred to comments made by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar that troops could be deployed at the border.  He noted that there was no Irish army present at the border during the troubles.  He described the situation as ridiculous and that a democratic vote was made at Westminster with the DUP seeking the best deal for Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.  He referred to the amendment passed at Westminster due to a democratic decision and that assurances were needed that Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom until the people of the North of Ireland voted otherwise.  He stated that in his opinion it was a ‘bash the Brits’ campaign as the DUP were attempting to get the best possible deal for the people of Northern Ireland.  He commented on the MPs from Northern Ireland who refused to take their seats at Westminster which showed a lack of democracy.

 

The Mayor stated that he was aware of the democratic process and that Members had been appointed by virtue of that democratic process.

 

Councillor Duffy referred to the remarks by Alderman Ramsey and stated that Sinn Fein had been clear from the outset that they would be abstaining from taking their seats at Westminster.  She further stated Sinn Fein have reiterated that there could be no good Brexit for the people of Northern Ireland therefore the backstop was needed for protection.  She felt that writing a letter may not make much difference and that thankfully MEPs were working in Europe as the EU have stated that there would be no re-opening of the negotiations.  She stated that Sinn Fein were in support of the Motion which had once again opened up the opportunity for a border poll. 

 

Councillor Duffy Proposed an Amendment, Seconded by Councillor Jackson

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Government’s attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region.

 

Alderman Hussey stated that whilst he agreed with the wording of the motion, it suggested that no renegotiations take place.   He then referred to comments made by Alderman Ramsey regarding the democratic process and stated that he preferred democracy in Westminster against the benign dictatorship emanating from Europe, therefore the Ulster Unionist Party would not be supporting the amendment nor the motion.

 

Councillor Donnelly stated that there had been a lot of discussion regarding democracy.  He noted the 100th anniversary of the Dáil Eíreann where 78 percent refused to go to Westminster and formed their own parliament.  He stated that the response to this action resulted in the border.  He referred to the contribution regarding the border by the former SDLP, MEP, John Hume within the Good Friday Agreement which Brexit had shattered.

 

Councillor Tierney expressed shock at the remarks made by the UUP regarding the motion.  He stated that he found the DUP position regarding Brexit ridiculous in equal measures as the backstop was the bare minimum needed to protect the people of Northern Ireland and everything they held dear.  He stated that the reason for this motion was that the only party representing the people of Northern Ireland at Westminster was the DUP who did not represent the views of the majority of people in Northern Ireland.  He emphasised the importance of those listed within the motion hearing the worries and concerns of the people if the British Government attempt to renegotiate the terms of the backstop.

 

Alderman Devenney referred to the issues regarding Brexit and stated that all those listed in the motion may fold on their decision before 29 March 2019.  He referred to the latter part of the motion and stated that in his opinion, the recent bomb attacks had the same impact on the wellbeing of people in the City.

 

Alderman Thompson stated that in his opinion, Members from Nationalist and Republican parties did not wish for the Irish backstop to be renegotiated.  He stated that a particular party had abstained from taking their seat at Westminster whilst another had lost their seat and had therefore aligned themselves with a Republican party in the South of Ireland.  He stated that speakers from within the Unionist grouping had stated that if all parties had been in agreement that there would be no hard border on the island of Ireland.  However, in response to the vote at Westminster, Leo Varadkar had commented that there may be plans to deploy infrastructure or personnel at the border.  He described Mr Varadkar’s comments as insensitive given the current situation.  He then proposed an amendment to the motion.

 

Mayor advised that the amendment could not be considered until voting had taken place on the current amendment.

 

Councillor M McHugh stated that the decision taken by Britain to leave the common market had highlighted the lack of democracy for the people who lived on the island of Ireland.  He stated that the majority of residents and business owners who had expressed the importance of the backstop, were being completely ignored.  He referred to comments made by previous speakers and stated that Sinn Fein was the only party with MEPs from every province in Ireland with seats at Europe.  He stated that those MEPs had expressed the views of the majority of the people in the North of Ireland and their wish to remain part of the European Union and also ensure that the backstop was in place.  He described the backstop as an insurance policy to be applied in the event of a resolution not being reached regarding the border in Ireland.  He referred to Alderman Devenney’s comments and stated that nobody could foretell what further decisions would be made in the run up to 29 March however, the fight to retain the backstop had to be maintained.  He stated that recent events at Westminster had shown how government could change their mind when involved in such important negotiations and he emphasised to Members the importance of supporting the motion for the majority of people in Ireland who are pro-European.

 

In response to a query from Councillor Gallagher, the Mayor advised that the motion referred to the British Prime Minister.

 

Councillor Duffy Proposed, Seconded by Councillor Jackson

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Government’s attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region.

 

 

After voting by a show of hands on the Amendment the result was as follows:

 

For the Amendment – 23; Against – 9; Abstentions 5.

 

The Amendment was carried and became the Substantive Motion.

 

Alderman Ramsey proposed a further Amendment, Seconded by Alderman McClintock.

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Government’s attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region and ask An Taoiseach not to send troops to the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

 

In response to a query by Councillor Carlin, the Mayor advised that he would be accepting the Amendment.

 

Councillor O’Reilly referred to the Amendment and asked that the British Government withdraw their troops from Ireland.

 

Alderman McClintock stated that if An Taoiseach deployed troops to the border it would go against the will of everyone who sought to ensure that no hard borders were put in place.  She referred to comments made by previous speakers regarding the democratic process and stated that democracy only applied to some in the Chamber when it was in the interests of the Nationalist community.  She stated that in her opinion, people were opposed to democracy when it had to take in the views of the majority of the people represented by the DUP in Northern Ireland.  She stated that the DUP was stronger than ever and that Conservative and Labour MPs had voted that the backstop would be disastrous for the constitutional position of Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole.

 

Alderman Ramsey Proposed, Seconded by Alderman McClintock.

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Governments attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region and ask An Taoiseach not to send troops to the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

 

 

After voting by a show of hands the result was as follows:

 

For the Amendment – 23;  Against – 7;  Abstentions – 6

 

The Amendment was therefore carried and subsequently became to the Substantive Motion.

 

Councillor McGinley Proposed a further Amendment, Seconded by Councillor Duffy

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Governments attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region and ask An Taoiseach not to send troops to the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit and also there will be no deployment of British soldiers at the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

 

After voting by a show of hands the result was as follows:

 

For the Amendment – 18;  Against – 8;  Abstentions – 5.

 

The Amendment was therefore carried and subsequently became to the Substantive Motion.

 

Alderman Hussey proposed a further amendment, however after considering the legal advice by the Lead Legal Services Officer, he withdrew the amendment.

 

Members were then asked to vote on the Substantive Motion.

 

Councillor McGinley Proposed, Seconded by Councillor Duffy

 

That    this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Governments attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region and ask An Taoiseach not to send troops to the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit and also there will be no deployment of British soldiers at the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

 

After voting by a show of hands the result was as follows:

 

For the Substantive Motion – 18; Against – 9; Abstentions -5 and subsequently Council

 

Resolved       That this Council write to the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Labour Party and Leo Varadkar, Michel Barnier, Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker outlining our serious concerns at the Governments attempt to renegotiate the Irish Backstop as it would have disastrous impact on the economic, cultural, social and physical wellbeing of our cross border city region and ask An Taoiseach not to send troops to the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit and also there will be no deployment of British soldiers at the border in the event of a no-deal Brexit.