NI parties need to engage to see power sharing re-established

James Brokenshire and Simon Coveney meet in Dublin ahead of talks with northern parties next week

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney welcomes Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to a meeting at The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin for talks on Northern Ireland and   Brexit. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney welcomes Northern Ireland Secretary James Brokenshire to a meeting at The Department of Foreign Affairs in Dublin for talks on Northern Ireland and Brexit. Photograph: Niall Carson/PA

 

The Irish and British governments will meet the Northern parties in Belfast next week in the latest bid to relaunch the power-sharing institutions in Stormont, which have been suspended since early this year amid disagreement between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The Northern Secretary James Brokenshire was in Dublin on Tuesday afternoon for a series of meetings with Government Ministers, including the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney.

Both men said that the Northern parties needed to engage with each other to see the institutions re-established.

“The parties who have the enabling electoral mandates need to reach the necessary agreement to form a new Executive. Both Governments will leave no stone unturned in the weeks ahead in supporting the parties to achieve that essential objective,” Mr Coveney’s office said after the meeting in a statement.

Speaking earlier, Mr Coveney said: “Northern Ireland needs a voice through a government of its own.

“We need to see a resumption to those discussions and hopefully a conclusion as soon as possible. We don’t want talks that are ongoing for a long period of time.

“We must ensure that politicians locally are working together to strengthen the economy, to deal with the challenges and opportunities of EU Exit, and build a stronger, shared society based on respect for everyone. Ultimately, it is for Northern Ireland’s political parties to find a way to make this work,” Mr Brokenshire said in a statement.

However, the unity of the two governments on their approach to the Northern talks is not mirrored in their positions on Brexit, where considerable tensions remain between Dublin and London.

Mr Brokenshire talked up the British Government’s proposals to avoid the re-establishment of a hard border after Britain leaves the EU and the customs union, but the Irish Government remains unimpressed.

Speaking in Toronto the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said that the British proposals amounted to seeking to keep all the benefits of the single market and the customs union with none of the costs.

Mr Coveney delivered the same message to Mr Brokenshire at their meeting in Dublin on Tuesday evening.

Mr Coveney said it was up to the British government “to come up with flexible and imaginative solutions” to the problems raised for the North and the border region by the UK’s decision to leave the EU.

Mr Brokenshire also met the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs Frances Fitzgerald and the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan.

Speaking after the meeting, the Tánaiste welcomed the emerging clarity resulting from the UK’s recent proposals but noted that further constructive engagement would be required.

The Tánaiste said: “The recent position papers published by the UK Government on customs arrangements, Northern Ireland, and the availability of goods represent valuable contributions to the ongoing Brexit negotiation process. Of course, while these papers are directed at both the UK business and citizen, the proposals they contain will need careful consideration by the EU 27 and the Commission in developing any response in due course.”

Meanwhile Mr Flanagan warned against using Brexit as a “Trojan horse” for a United Ireland.

Speaking after his meeting with Mr Brokenshire at which the two men discussed security issues, Mr Flanagan criticised the efforts by Sinn Féin to use Brexit to advance the cause of a United Ireland.

“Any talk of unity must wait for a unity of minds and hearts and the consent of the Unionist minority to a debate on a United Ireland and how best it might be achieved, and what type of form and structure it might take,” he said.

“Premature talk of unity is dangerous. It only makes unionists fear for the principle of consent and weakens the very solid bonds of friendship and co-operation formed in recent years,” Mr Flanagan warned.