Fine Gael MEP Mairéad McGuinness drew parallels between the 1921 treaty and Brexit at a commemoration ceremony at Béal na mBláth in west Cork this afternoon.
Hundreds of people gathered at Béal na mBláth for the 95th commemoration of the ambush and shooting dead of Michael Collins.
The then commander-in-chief of the Irish army was killed in an ambush by anti-treaty IRA forces in August 1922.
This year’s oration was delivered by Ms McGuinness. Ms McGuinness (below) is also vice-president of the European Parliament and her speech focused on Ireland’s future relationship with the UK in the wake of Brexit.
Last year the oration was delivered by President Michael D Higgins – the first time a sitting head of state did so.
“In as much as the 1921 treaty signed by Michael Collins shaped the future of our nation, the new ‘treaty’ between the UK and the EU will shape our future,” said Ms McGuinness.
She said Ireland’s relationship with the UK will be more radically changed by Brexit than it was by the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, the Treaty or the Declaration of the Republic in 1949.
“If the shape of Brexit is a hard one, then the separation will be more definitive and absolute than anything envisaged by those involved in the foundation of the state, including Michael Collins,” she said.
On the UK proposals for a new future partnership with the EU she said they “are more than the UK wanting to have its cake and eat it, it’s an attempt to have its cake and eat ours”.
From honeymooners to locals ‘over the field’, they travelled from all over for today’s commemoration at Béal na mBláth. pic.twitter.com/KobiLAJMNK
— JennïeØSullivân (@OSullivanJennie) August 20, 2017
And she said every time a British politician repeats their determination to leave the Customs Union, “another brick gets placed back in the border wall”.
“The UK has the capacity to stop this unwelcome development by remaining, at the very least, in the Customs Union,” she said.
She said it is “regrettable, indeed reprehensible,” that there is no functioning Assembly in Northern Ireland to give voice to the many concerns of citizens, of community groups, of business leaders and the farming community in Northern Ireland.
And she hit out at calls for the UK’s split with Europe to be used as a means for reuniting Ireland.
“There are those who would use Brexit as a weapon to reunite our country. That is misguided. The path to reunification is already set out in the Good Friday Agreement,” she said.
Ms McGuinness urged all elements of society to get involved in a debate on the shape of Europe in the future.
And she also called for Europe to start building new relationships with the Islamic world and with Africa in a bid to tackle the refugee crisis.