I was honoured to be elected Chair of the European Movement in Northern Ireland at Belfast City Hall on Tuesday evening.
For memory, my remarks on taking the Chair:
“I feel, whether or not the referendum on the EU actually happens, we now at least have the opportunity to have the debate about Europe and to raise the profile what it means for Northern Ireland to be part of the European Union.
“I personally think we should look at Northern Ireland as a natural bridge between the European Union and North America, and seek to capitalise on that position – look at a map of Europe and we are peripheral, but look at the map of the Western World and we are right in the middle of it. It is not a matter of choosing one over the other.
“To be clear, if the people of the UK opt to leave the European Union on the basis of the facts, I personally will accept that. What I will not accept is their opting to leave the European Union on the basis of fiction.
“Therefore, the Movement’s role in Northern Ireland over the next four years or so will be to present facts about the EU clearly. We are only a voluntary organisation, but we will take every opportunity we can to communicate our message – through the media, in schools, in Assembly Questions.
“We are living in interesting times and we have the opportunity now place the European Union, and the reality of Northern Ireland’s membership of it and role within it, at the heart of the political debate. As we do so, we will ensure that debate is around the facts, not the fiction.”