Taoiseach and British PM remain divided on major issues after summit
Leaders agree to meet again ‘before summer recess’ following Chequers summit
British prime minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street on Friday. Photograph: Matt Dunham/PA Wire
Irish and British officials will seek to work together on topics including legacy issues in the North, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said last night, after a summit meeting with the British prime minister Boris Johnson that sought to reset the Dublin-London relationship after an extended period of turbulence.
Both sides said the meeting was constructive and Mr Martin told reporters at Government Buildings last night that the two leaders had agreed to meet again “before the summer recess”, but there was little sign that differences over legacy issues or the Northern Ireland protocol had been bridged.
Sources said that the meeting was a success in improving relations and agreeing future co-operation, but fundamental differences remain on major issues.
Mr Martin said that they had discussed the Stormont House agreement – which laid down processes to deal with legacy issues and victims from which the British government has signalled its intention to depart – and but agreed only that the two governments would “continue to exchange perspectives on it”.
Mr Martin stressed that there had to be “an inclusive process around all issues to do with Stormont House”. The process had to include all parties in Northern Ireland and the victims, he added, and said that “this wasn’t an issue that lent itself to unilateralism in any form”.
He also stressed “the need to follow through on agreements that have already been made”.
Mr Martin said the two men had “a good discussion on the Ballymurphy situation”, after relatives of the victims roundly criticised Mr Johnson’s response to the coroner’s verdicts this week.
“I think he does understand it,” Mr Martin said and indicated that further contributions from the prime minister on the subject were possible. “I think it’s something that he will deal with in his way and in his own time,” he said.
A statement from Downing Street said that the two leaders had “reflected on the coroner’s report into the Ballymurphy massacre published this week. They agreed it was profoundly sad that the families of victims had to wait so long for the truth.”
“The prime minister restated the UK government’s commitment to finding a way forward in Northern Ireland that delivers for victims, aids truth recovery and helps communities in the future,” Downing Street said.
Northern Ireland protocol
On the Northern Ireland protocol, Mr Martin reiterated that the protocol was a matter for discussion between the European Union and the UK, and said that he had spoken to the EU commissioner responsible for its operation, Maros Sefcovic, before today’s meeting with Mr Johnson. The meeting at Chequers was also attended by the British government’s EU negotiator, Lord David Frost, indicating that EU affairs were an important part of the agenda from the British point of view.
Mr Martin did not respond directly when asked if the British had asked for Irish support in talks with the EU on the protocol, but he said that the processes in the EU-UK treaty should be utilised to overcome any difficulties. He said he believed the EU wanted to be constructive.