A “Shared Future” without the voice of the unionist community

25 September 2019

Diane Dodds MEP has spoken out on the lack of balance of a Shared Future and anti-brexit debate held today in the European Parliament in Brussels. The event was billed as a chance for the real voices of Northern Ireland to be heard however, the panel did not seem to include the voice of the unionist community from Northern Ireland.

Diane Dodds MEP

Member of the EU Agriculture and Rural Development Committee, Substitute member of the EU Fisheries Committee

Diane Dodds

Mrs Dodds attended as a member of the audience alongside other MEPs and was given the opportunity to address the event.

Speaking after the event Diane said:

“This event has two different titles. It is an anti-Brexit event and of course that it perfectly valid in this parliament where we debate the most diverse subjects imaginable. It has also been billed as a Shared Future event. If the intent was to promote a Shared Future in the British Isles context then that is fine too.

Many watching this from home will be perturbed that the Shared Future theme does not extend to Northern Ireland.  There has been no input from the Unionist community within the organising panel of this event.

If the “real voices” of Northern Ireland are to be heard today, then that must include those of the unionist community in Northern Ireland who have equal right to be heard. This was not the case today.

I was perturbed to find on social media that my presence here was being used as a fig leaf for balance as a token unionist and leave voter.  In over ten years as a member of this Parliament this is the first time that my agreement to attend a public event has been used by the event organiser to make a point.

We all agree that an orderly Withdrawal of the UK from the EU is preferable. I am on record over the last 3 years as supporting this. But the barrier to a withdrawal agreement has been identified as the backstop, a backstop that, according to a recent poll, does not have the support of 81% of unionists. A statistic that seemed to be completely ignored today.

So let’s be clear neither I, nor the tens of thousands of people across Northern Ireland who voted for me, are anyone’s token. We are real people with voices that must be heard with equal importance.”

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