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North South Ministerial Council Armagh Remarks by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr Katherine Zappone

Impact of Brexit on 100,000 Children must be considered

Brexit Dialogue must include Human rights obligations of Good Friday

Similar Child Protection Standards needed across Ireland

Taoiseach, Ministers, Colleagues,

An estimated 100,000 children and young people in our border regions will face the full impact of Brexit every day.

Hundreds of thousands of others in other regions of our island will also
have to deal with the implications.

We must act to ensure that during the process their rights are recognised
and respected – and that their voices will be heard.

There are serious questions to be considered in terms of the impact our
actions as elected politicians both North and South in the coming weeks,
months and years will have on our young people for generations to come.

Earlier this week under our National Policy Framework for Children and
Young People ‘Better Outcomes, Brighter Futures’ I brought together
organisations working with our young people – some of which operate on a
cross border basis.

This dialogue brought into sharp focus the concerns of our children and
young people.

Organisations in the area are already reporting that even younger children
are expressing concern about the possible impact of Brexit on their
parent’s jobs.

Our discussions focussed on a number of areas:

· Identifying both challenges and opportunities for children and young
people arising from Brexit
· Identify any specific needs for children and young people
· What do our young mobile generation want in terms of freedom of
movement on the island – and why?
· How do we continue to respect and engage with all young people in
Northern Ireland?

I can report that organisations welcomed our initiative and have been swift
in their response.

A common area of concern is that whether there is a soft or hard Brexit
that the obligation for equivalent human rights North and South contained
in the Good Friday Agreement must remain.

In addition the groups believe there should be common or similar child
protection standards North and South.

Access to services is an issue – both in terms of social services and
health where delivery is on a cross border basis.

The need for a five nation approach has been put forward – and indeed I
look forward next week to meeting colleagues on that basis at the
British-Irish Council.

There was a unanimous view that the voices of young people must be heard
and acted upon in the Brexit process - this is also a priority for my
Department in every area of Government policy.

There were of course other issues including uncertainty over EU Peace
Funding the details of which I will be happy to discuss further with

Finally, on a broader point what is apparent is that the implications of
Brexit will not be solely issue-specific.

This process will be economic, legal, cultural and social. And at the heart
of these are our citizens – specifically children and young people.

We need to take a broad view of the impact of Brexit, how it will impact on
our communities, our identities, our common values.

Crucially, we need to ensure that the investments from peace and progress
are safeguarded for all the children and young people on this island.

In the New Year my Department will host a sectorial dialogue for the

We will gather to ensure that whatever lies ahead in terms of the
relationship between the two jurisdictions and the EU, that there will be
no retrograde step in the protections, support and rights for children on
the island.

Thank You and can I assure colleagues that my office is willing to engage
on these or any other issues affecting our young people.