Poots confirms DUP will attend North-South meeting

NI Protocol a ‘6-1’ defeat for North says party’s new leader during visit to Dublin

Democratic Unionist Party  leader Edwin Poots  outside  Government Buildings in Dublin on Thursday ahead of his first meeting in the role with Taoiseach  Micheál Martin. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

Democratic Unionist Party leader Edwin Poots outside Government Buildings in Dublin on Thursday ahead of his first meeting in the role with Taoiseach Micheál Martin. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty

 

Democratic Unionist Party leader Edwin Poots has confirmed his party will attend the North-South Ministerial council meeting on June 18th.

Speaking outside Government Buildings on Thursday evening after a meeting with Taoiseach Micheál Martin Mr Poots said it was his intention to lead the DUP team into the meeting.

His confirmation comes after weeks of uncertainty with regard to the DUP position on the North-South ministerial meeting following his election to the leadership.

The Taoiseach said both leaders had an “open exchange of views” during the course of the hour-long meeting.

In a statement, Mr Martin said he recognised and understood the genuine concern in unionist and loyalist communities about the protocol.

He said it was critically important that the institutions continued to function.

“Focus needs to be on getting issues resolved and on reducing friction where we can.”

He suggested one obvious solution was an agreement between the EU and UK on a temporary (SPS) veterinary agreement - which would do away with 80 percent of checks at Northern ports.

Negotiating positions

Mr Poots has consistently described the relations between both jurisdictions as damaged and bad and blamed the deterioration on the negotiating positions on Brexit adopted by Leo Varadkar when taoiseach in the former government, and then tánaiste Simon Coveney.

“I believe that there are important issues that we need to discuss on the basis that there is going to be a serious attempt to deal with the Northern Ireland Protocol. I believe that we should be seeking to have normalised relationships once again,” he said.

The DUP leader denied there was ever a boycott of the meetings by his party.

“A lot of people talked about boycotts but there never actually was a boycott. And if you look at the five point plan within that, there wasn’t a boycott.

“There was an issue of North-South relations being affected as a consequence of East West relations. That still stands. And that’s maybe an issue which is very prevalent during those meetings.

So, we haven’t gone away from any battle on this protocol issue. Far from it. We will be taking the battle everywhere we go.”

At an earlier media event in Dublin he described the Protocol as a “6-1 defeat” for Northern Ireland.

“People have discussed (the Protocol) as being a win-win for Northern Ireland. Instead it is a 6-1 defeat,” he said.

The new DUP leader, who was elected last month after the ousting of Arlene Foster, said the Protocol needed to be scrapped.

‘Very frank discussion’

Of his meeting with the Taoiseach, he said that they had negotiations and a “very frank discussion” on the Protocol.

Earlier he said: “There is a lot of anger with the Protocol. That manifested itself on the streets a couple of weeks ago, the worst street violence we have seen for many years

“We need to recognise that the Protocol as it currently exists is not deliverable and must go. That is something that the Taoiseach needs to recognise as well.

“We had a circumstance where we had the previous taoiseach and tánaiste, Leo Varadkar and Simon Coveney, taking over things (to EU Summits) from the 1970s that happened at borders between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

“They used that to drive forward their agenda. That has left a very bad taste in the mouths of the Northern Irish Community.”

Mr Poots repeated his criticisms of Mr Varadkar and Mr Coveney several times, saying they were responsible for the situation Northern Irish people now found themselves in with regard to rising food prices and difficulties with accessing some medicines.

“I believe there are solutions that can be achieved in finding a way to ensure the single market is protected, that there are no borders in the island of Ireland and can also (tackle) the issue of the barrier that has been erected between Great Britain and Northern Ireland which is damaging to every single person in Northern Ireland.”

“Food costs will go up as a consequence of 15,000 checks on food every week. We are looking at animal movements being blocked. We are looking at medicines and medical devices, over 90 percent of which come from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, (with) obstacles being put in the way of medicines coming in, particularly new cancer drugs.

“These things are entirely unacceptable not only for me as a Unionist but for me as a leader of people in Northern Ireland as they impact every single person.”

‘Not fit for purpose’

He contended the Protocol was not deliverable. “If it can’t deliver something, it’s not fit for purpose. If it’s not fit for purpose there’s only one thing to do with it and that is scrap it,” he said.

Asked what the alternative was he said it was to ensure the single market and not create barriers on the island of Ireland.

“For medicines for the NHS we don’t need checks. For animals that have been sold back and forth between Great Britain and Northern Ireland where we have full traceability on those animals, we don’t need them locked in Great Britain for six months.

“The last case of rabies in Ireland was in 1922. We don’t need to be injecting guide dogs with vaccinations for rabies and depriving people who need them,” he said.