Mary Glindon MP: Best wishes for Northern Ireland

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Leaving the European Union has proved more complex for Northern Ireland as the only part of the UK sharing a land border with the EU in the form of the Irish Republic.

The importance of the landmark Belfast Agreement, which ended the conflict in 1998, was that people in Northern Ireland could enjoy links with the rest of the UK and move freely between the north and south of the island.

But Brexit caused more difficulties for north-south trade by road and rail rather than under or above the sea.

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It was agreed that Northern Ireland could access both the European and UK single markets given its unique geography.

Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.
Mary Glindon, North Tyneside MP.

However, this meant needless complications such as heavy bureaucracy and checks for trade only going from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

This politically unnerved many unionists who felt that they were being shifted against their will towards a united Ireland. This was not the intention of the Belfast Agreement.

As a result, the power-sharing executive and Assembly were put in mothballs for two years.

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This caused great difficulties for ordinary people in public services and wages while Northern Ireland was treading water.

Thankfully, the new deal corrects the problems and will soon lead to the resumption of democratic government in Northern Ireland that will again be jointly led by a nationalist and a unionist.

Power-sharing is vital to both communities. But further action is also needed to heal its deep divisions. More Catholics and Protestants attending integrated schools and better understanding each other from an early age would do much to overcome sectarianism from its past in the future.

Northern Ireland is a beautiful place from which both the UK and the Irish Republic benefit. I wish it well.

Mary Glindon is Labour MP for North Tyneside