Donaldson calls on Government to be ‘proactive’ to find agreement on NI protocol

Mechanisms exist in EU-UK trade agreement to resolve issues, Taoiseach says

Jeffrey Donaldson was in Dublin on Friday for his first meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin since he became DUP leader earlier this summer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

Jeffrey Donaldson was in Dublin on Friday for his first meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin since he became DUP leader earlier this summer. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

 

Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Jeffrey Donaldson has called on the Irish Government to be more “proactive” in finding a solution to the impasse over the Northern Ireland protocol.

Mr Donaldson was in Dublin on Friday for his first meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin since he became DUP leader earlier this summer.

He said the Irish Government was harming the relationship between Northern Ireland and Britain by its defence of the protocol, which forms part of the trade agreement between the EU and the UK.

Speaking after his hour-long meeting with Mr Martin, he said: “The Taoiseach recognises the need to find a solution. The Irish Government is beginning to recognise that the protocol is a major concern for unionists and it is harming the prospect of making political progress in Northern Ireland and has the potential to set back political progress.

“Therefore, I want to see the Irish Government being more proactive.”

Mr Martin, commenting separately, said the meeting had been honest and open.

“I acknowledge the concerns of the unionist community are clear but I did indicate that the mechanisms are there in the EU-UK trade agreement to resolve the issues around the protocol.

“Our sense has been that the EU Commission has been consistently flexible in getting this situation resolved,” he said. “We also need to see some flexibility from the UK government side.”

Relationship

The DUP leader said Northern Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the UK was being harmed on a daily basis by the Irish Sea border and said it was not reasonable to expect unionists to go forward on a“business-as-usual basis”.

Asked would he walk away from the Stormont institutions if the situation was not resolved, he said: “I don’t want to be in a situation where political institutions collapse, but I don’t want to be in a situation where we sustain a situation where our relationship with the rest of the UK is harmed on a daily basis.”

The Taoiseach, for his part, said the Government had made it clear there was a way to resolve this issue. “We do not necessarily agree that unionists’ concerns cannot be overcome. We have a different perspective to that. The focus has to be on resolving the issues,” he said.

Mr Martin noted there is “a tremendous commitment” to the Belfast Agreement across Europe. “We do not want political instability in Northern Ireland. That is in nobody’s interest.”

Afghanistan

The leaders also discussed the ongoing violence and volatility in Afghanistan and the continuing efforts to evacuate people from across the island of Ireland .

Mr Martin said the Government would have to look at other mechanisms to help the Irish citizens who remain in the country to leave.

He paid tribute to the Irish team who went to Kabul on a “high-risk” mission. “The very best traditions of public service in terms of the Army Ranger unit and the officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs. I appreciate the work they did in facilitating Irish people [to] leave Afghanistan,” he said.

Mr Donaldson said several people from Northern Ireland working with Concern remain in Afghanistan.

He said he was working closely with the UK government and had discussed with Mr Martin the good co-operation that would be needed between both jurisdictions to bring people home.