Published: Tue, 30 January 2024
After almost two years of political impasse in Northern Ireland, Sean Kelly MEP, a prominent voice on Brexit-related matters, has welcomed the agreement for a return of the Northern Ireland Executive. Kelly, MEP for Ireland South and Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s UK Delegation, emphasises the urgency, stating, “The political deadlock has persisted for too long, and the impact on sectors like volunteering and non-profit organizations is reaching crisis levels. It is crucial for all political leaders to exert their utmost efforts to officially restore the Executive at Stormont, but the fact we had an agreement to work with is extremely positive. The need for the Assembly to return after two years cannot be overstated enough; there are several important strategies that are collecting dust on the selves waiting to be implemented.”
Highlighting the unique economic situation of Northern Ireland, Kelly underscores the need for direct communication channels with the EU. “Brexit has brought about significant economic challenges, and Northern Ireland requires special attention. I proposed the establishment of an EU Economic Envoy, similar to the US model, to be present in NI. This would have allowed NI businesses to take advantage of their dual market access,” he stated.
Kelly advocates for formal structures between the European Parliament (EP) and the Northern Ireland Assembly. “I firmly believe that the next European Parliament should have formal structures of contact with MLAs. Additionally, the simple step of providing MLAs with access badges to the EP will enable them to observe key debates during the legislative process is low hanging fruit in my view,” says Kelly.
As the Stormont Assembly’s power sharing deadlock lingers, Kelly underscores the significance of PEACE PLUS funding. “The last two years underscored the vital importance of PEACE PLUS funding during these challenging times. The EU is extremely proud of peace funding and it has become crucial for the well-being of Northern Ireland and people should be given long-term security that the programme will continue into well into the future.,” he adds.
“Over the course of the Brexit process, the public were bombarded with political chaos. It is completely understandable that fatigue set in, but the reality is that Brexit is the new normal, and we still are in the process of implementing it. I think most people have moved on from the headlines of Brexit, their concerns are about the actual governance. For our part, MEPs stand ready and waiting to increase contacts with MLAs” states Kelly.