Irish interests may suffer in prolonged Brexit talks, says Martin

Fianna Fáil leader blames British and Irish governments for Northern Ireland impasse

Party leader Micheál Martin speaking during the annual Fianna Fáil 1916 Easter Rising commemoration at Arbour Hill cemetery in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

Party leader Micheál Martin speaking during the annual Fianna Fáil 1916 Easter Rising commemoration at Arbour Hill cemetery in Dublin. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

 

Ireland could lose out in prolonged Brexit negotiations, Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin has warned.

“A rising concern is that Ireland is now being pushed later and later in the negotiations – leaving a real risk that we will face enormous pressure to accept whatever is proposed so that the financial settlement with the UK will not be lost,’’ he said.

Mr Martin was speaking at the annual Fianna Fáil 1916 commemoration in Arbour Hill, Dublin, on Sunday.

He said the only way to address the disruption to North-South relations post-Brexit was for Northern Ireland to have a form of special economic zone status which did not affect its constitutional settlement but actually provided a means of addressing the country’s underdevelopment.

“We have been consistent in raising our concerns from well before the referendum was held and we have been active and constructive at every point,’’ he added.

“Unfortunately, there is a growing intolerance within elements of Government to the idea that anyone has the right to challenge them or to question their strategy.’’

He said given the Government had “over-spun and under-delivered” in nearly every policy area, and their obviously poor working relationship with the key players, Fianna Fáil would continue to speak up.

“The issue of Brexit is simply too important for our future and we need more debate and not less,’’ he added.

“Most of all we need to start seeing concrete and credible proposals about future arrangements.’’

On the failure to restore powersharing in Northern Ireland, Mr Martin said there was a very real threat to the first agreed settlement in the island’s history.

He said Sinn Féin and the DUP had achieved a relative dominance of their communities, but had failed to establish a government and to allow the democratic voice of the people to be heard.

“They bear the primary responsibility for a record of dysfunction and inaction which put party interests ahead of the public interest,’’ he added.

“However, the simple fact is that the governments also bear serious responsibility.’’

Mr Martin said the British and Irish governments had “allowed formal, photo-driven relations to replace the serious, detailed and ongoing engagement which had existed under previous governments’’.

He said while they might talk to each other a lot, they seemed unwilling to show urgency or serious leadership.

“A vacuum has been created, which is grave and causing real damage,’’ he added.

In a statement, Mr Coveney said that Mr Martin was trying to undermine the Government on Brexit for political gain.

“Negotiations are sensitive and ongoing so it’s curious to say that at a time when European backing for Ireland across the EU has been rock solid, Fianna Fáil is trying to create division and fear on Brexit at home for party political gain and a few headlines,” Mr Coveney said.

He said that he and the taoiseach were in constant contact wih their EU counterparts, the Barnier taskforce and the British Government, and that Irish issues were “at the centre of the Brexit debate in Europe and the UK.”