A “New Ireland Forum 2” to achieve a nationalist consensus on how to unite the island should be established, a report published yesterday by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement said.
Northern Ireland is the only part of the UK sharing a land border with an EU state — the Republic of Ireland —and its status after Brexit is a key factor in talks between London and Brussels amid claims the region would be worst-affected by a hard exit.
The 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which largely ended decades of violence, allows a referendum on reuniting Ireland where it is believed a majority in Northern Ireland favour this.
EU leaders agreed that such a vote, in the face of stiff unionist opposition, would allow Northern Ireland to rejoin the bloc automatically.
The report said: “The road map to achieve the constitutional aspiration of the peaceful reunification of Ireland and its peoples under the Good Friday Agreement could begin in the same way as the original New Ireland Forum.
“We recommend the establishment of A New Ireland Forum 2 which would be the mechanism whereby the status quo logjam and long-term consequence of Brexit for the people of this island could be addressed.”
The original New Ireland Forum met in the 1980s to achieve agreement among nationalists opposed to IRA violence on the way forward. Among those who attended were then-taoiseach Garret FitzGerald and SDLP founder John Hume.
Arrangements for the Irish border after Brexit are one of the key issues under negotiation between the UK and EU.
While political leaders in Dublin, Belfast and London have endorsed calls for a frictionless frontier, its future is still to be decided.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar recently said Ireland will not design a border for Brexiteers and his intervention has met with an angry response from the DUP.
The committee also said Northern Ireland should be treated as a special case worthy of ongoing EU support after Brexit in 2019.
Yesterday’s report was drawn up by Fianna Fáil senator Mark Daly.