The Dáil has passed a motion supporting the Brexit deal without the need for a vote.
As less than 10 TDs opposed the draft document agreed by the UK and EU, the Ceann Comhairle ruled that a formal vote was not necessary.
Members of the Solidarity party did oppose the motion, along with Independent TD Mick Wallace.
Cork representative Mick Barry said they objected to “the politics of neo-liberalism” which he claimed runs through the Withdrawal Agreement “like stitching in a jacket”.
The vote was symbolical rather than legally binding.
It was put forward by the Government and received support from Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, the Green Party and Social Democrats.
Sinn Féin had placed an amendment seeking extra focus to be put citizens’ rights but this was defeated.
Tánaiste Simon Coveney said while he agreed with the sentiment of the Sinn Féin amendment it took away from the “core message” which they were trying to send across Europe.
He said the message being given from the Irish parliament at this time should be kept “simple and clear”.
The Government motion stated that “Dáil Éireann supports the draft agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (the draft withdrawal agreement), as published on 14th November 2018 including the draft protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland which forms an integral part of draft agreement”.
In his contribution, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressed his “deep appreciation and gratitude” to other EU countries for backing Ireland’s position in the negotiations.
“They have understood our unique concerns and made them their concerns, and they have shown unwavering solidarity in ensuring that these have been taken into account in the draft Withdrawal Agreement,” he said.
“There could be no better example of the advantages of EU membership for a small country.
“No matter what happens anywhere else, Ireland will stay a fully committed Member of the European Union.
“It is our home – one we have built together – and it is where we will stay,” Mr Varadkar said.
Read more: Ireland ‘fully committed member of EU’ regardless of what happens after Brexit – Varadkar
There was repeated praise from all sides of the House for Michel Barnier, who the Tánaiste described as a “formidable chief negotiator for the EU and for Ireland”.
Fianna Fáil’s Micheál Martin said if it is passed by the UK and EU parliaments the deal would be “politically and economically a welcome step forward”.
“For the first time in its recent history, Northern Ireland would have a competitive edge,” he said.
Mr Martin said the deal was a “balanced text” even though the EU side “went to the very limit of their mandate” to help reach a proposal that could be approved in London.
And he promised that even if changes to the wording are made at the summit of EU leaders this weekend, Fianna Fáil “will not be looking for issues to cause controversy” so long as the core commitment to the ‘backstop’ is honoured.
However, Mr Martin did have some criticism for the Government who is said “always put politics first”.
He claimed the first reaction of ministers to the Brexit deal last week was to question how they could create space for an election.
During the debate there were calls for a potential border poll from Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald and People Before Profit’s Richard Boyd Barrett.
Ms McDonald told the Dáil many within unionism are now seeing the value of all-island cooperation in areas like trade.
She said they are looking at the post-Brexit environment “through a new lens”.
“There are now many within unionism who are assessing old allegiances. They are now being challenged to ponder the future,” Ms McDonald said.
She added that as a result of Brexit, we are now “on the road to a unity referendum”.
“It’s no longer ‘if’ but ‘when’.”
Ms McDonald added that if British Prime Minister Theresa May can’t deliver on the deal and the UK crashes out, then it would be “incumbent” on the UK government to provide for a referendum on a united Ireland.
“The people of the North should have their say. This is a reasonable position,” she said.
Likewise, Mr Boyd Barrett said the Government should seek a border poll “to happen simultaneously north and south that if there was even an inkling that there would be a hard border”.
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