Coveney says strong UK-Irish friendship more important than ever

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice to discuss security and the North with UK ministers

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney (right) greets   UK minister for the cabinet office David Lidington. Photograph via Twitter

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney (right) greets UK minister for the cabinet office David Lidington. Photograph via Twitter

 

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday the strong UK-Irish friendship is more important than ever ahead of talks between senior Irish and UK Ministers in Dublin.

Mr Coveney and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan are set to welcome UK minister for the cabinet office David Lidington and secretary of state for Northern Ireland Karen Bradley at a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) in Dublin’s Iveagh House.

In a tweet Mr Coveney said: “Looking forward to welcoming @DLidington and Karen Bradley to Dublin for British Irish Intergovernmental Conf. with me and @CharlieFlanagan.

“Strong UK/Irish friendship, trust and co-operation more NB than ever. Legacy, Security Co-op, East-West relations and NI Pol stability all on Agenda”

The conference comes as the UK Brexit secretary Dominic Raab arrived in Northern Ireland this morning for a one-day visit. He is due to visit Stormont to meet with the political parties.

The power-sharing government at Stormont collapsed in January 2017 following a breakdown in relations between the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein and has not resumed.

A meeting between Ms Bradley and Northern Ireland’s main political parties in Belfast on Thursday to discuss the re-establishment of formal power-sharing was branded a “waste of time” by SDLP leader Colum Eastwood.

Four of the five parties expressed frustration after the meeting and they pressed Ms Bradley to convene multi-party talks.

Established under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement in 1998, the BIIGC focuses on bilateral agreement between the two countries.

Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday the strong UK-Irish friendship is more important than ever. Photograph: Reuters
Tánaiste and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said on Friday the strong UK-Irish friendship is more important than ever. Photograph: Reuters

Brexit negotiations and the absence of power-sharing in Northern Ireland are set to be top of the agenda of this conference.

North/South Security Co-operation and bilateral co-operation between the British and Irish governments will also be discussed.

The last meeting of the BIIGC took place in July.

In a statement ahead of the meeting, Mr Coveney said it showed the shared determination of both governments to get all of the institutions of the Belfast Agreement operating effectively again as soon as possible.

“It also demonstrates that, despite the current challenges, both the Irish and UK governments are committed to developing the relationship between our countries and looking at ways to maintain and deepen our engagement,” Mr Coveney continued.

Mr Flanagan said the meeting represented an important opportunity for the two governments to discuss their shared security concerns.

“We have common cause in combating the threat from paramilitaries who continue to reject the Good Friday Agreement,” Mr Flanagan said.

“While considerable progress has been made on the security front, the need for continued action against paramilitaries and ongoing vigilance remains.”

Earlier this week Ms Bradley told the House of Commons she was “actively considering” how and when an external mediator could play a “constructive” role in attempts to re-establish talks. She told MPs she would raise the idea with the Irish Government during Friday’s conference. - PA