The DUP, Northern Ireland's largest party, has confirmed that it will not send representatives to take part in the all-Ireland conversation about Brexit announced by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

In a statement tonight, the DUP said its position remains that no new structures were necessary for discussions about the impact of the EU membership referendum and said it would not be participating in the initiative.


During the summer the party leader, Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster, reacted negatively when the notion of an all-Ireland forum about Brexit was mooted.

Speaking during the first Leaders' Questions of the new Dáil term, the Taoiseach said he was finalising plans to convene an all-Ireland conversation following the UK's vote to leave the European Union.

Responding to Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams, who asked when the "national conversation" would take place, the Taoiseach said it would be in November.

The group will include business people, members of civic society and political parties.

Mr Kenny later told the Dáil that he believes that British Prime Minister Theresa May will trigger Article 50 towards the end of January or February.

Triggering Article 50 will kick off a two-year period of exit negotiations between the UK and the EU.

As well as Brexit, Budget 2017 was also top of the agenda on the first day of the new Dáil term.

The Cabinet was briefed on the tax options for the upcoming Budget by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan earlier today.

The Taoiseach also told the Dáil that the long-term issue of funding for third-level education would not be tackled next month.

Asked by Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin whether recommendations of the Cassells report on third-level funding would be taken into account in Budget 2017, Mr Kenny said shorter term funding is being looked at.

Mr Kenny said the money is not there for the medium- to the long-term funding of third-level which is dealt with in Peter Cassells' report.

Labour's Jan O'Sullivan asked for a commitment that childcare receives the investment she said it urgently needs.

Mr Kenny said the second pre-school year had been introduced and two weeks' paternity leave.

He said that Minister for Children Katherine Zappone proposes to bring various schemes together.

Call for referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment

Ruth Coppinger of the AAA-PBP appealed to the Taoiseach to hold a referendum which would repeal and not amend the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution.

Ms Coppinger raised the issue during Leaders' Questions as she and her colleagues wore "Repeal" t-shirts in the House.

She told the Taoiseach that 165,000 women have had to travel outside the State for an abortion while Mr Kenny has been in the Dáil.

Mr Kenny said the Citizens' Assembly would address the many sensitive issues that had arisen.

The assembly, which will hold its first meeting on 15 October, is to consider several topics, including the Eighth Amendment, the ageing population, fixed term parliaments, referendums and climate change.

It will consist of 99 members and Chairperson Judge Mary Laffoy and will meet for up to ten weekends for their discussions.

Mr Kenny said he had spoken to some of the people who were on the march on Saturday and there were very divided opinions on the subject.

The Taoiseach said it was a "reasonable thing" to allow people a voice on an issue that has always been divisive.

Deputy Coppinger said a referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment would win, citing an opinion poll.

Mr Kenny said he admired the courage of those who had agreed to take part in the Citizens' Assembly and said the hearings would be streamed live so those at home and abroad could hear them.

Later, clarification was sought from the Ceann Comhairle on emblems and items of clothing that express a political viewpoint being worn in the Oireachtas.

Ceann Comhairle Seán Ó Fearghaílsaid the matter would be discussed with the Business Committee and the Committee on Procedures.

Meanwhile, nurses protested outside Leinster House on the first day of the Dáil term.

They are calling for pay parity for nurses who graduated between 2011 and 2015; currently they are at a disadvantage compared to more senior and more junior colleagues.