SDLP Assembly Leader Matthew O’Toole has said that any New Ireland must take its rightful place at the heart of the European Union (EU).
He was speaking after introducing a motion at SDLP conference, supporting the long-term goal of Northern Ireland returning to the EU through reunification.
Conference also welcomed the Windsor Framework and the economic benefits it brings, while calling for the return of the Stormont institutions.
South Belfast MLA Mr O’Toole said:
“Any reasoned analysis would tell you that Brexit has been a disaster for Britain. People in Northern Ireland clearly voted to reject Brexit, many here have a great affinity for the EU and the role that they played in our peace process, support initiatives to resolving the conflict here and providing huge amounts of funding to community and infrastructure projects over the years as part of a peace dividend.
“The only thing protecting Northern Ireland from the worst outworkings of Brexit has been the special status afforded to us through the Protocol. We also welcome the Windsor Framework which provides the North with unique economic opportunity that has the potential to change the face of our economy and reverse decades of neglect in our cities, towns and villages.
“We must now see the restoration of the Stormont institutions so that we can make the most of this opportunity and get on with dealing with the problems impacting the lives of people in communities here.
“It’s only natural that our long-term goal should be to see the North return to the EU and the best way to do that is through unification and the building of a New Ireland where we proudly take our place in Europe, and everyone’s views are treated with respect and tolerance.”