Taoiseach calls for ‘pragmatism and commonsense’ from DUP over protocol

Evidence is growing of beneficial impact of Northern Ireland protocol, says Micheál Martin

 Officials said last night that Taoiseach Micheál Martin would visit Northern Ireland next Friday for meetings with the party leaders, including Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Officials said last night that Taoiseach Micheál Martin would visit Northern Ireland next Friday for meetings with the party leaders, including Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP. Photograph: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that the Northern Ireland protocol is helping the North’s economy, and called for “pragmatism and commonsense” from the DUP.

“The evidence is growing that the protocol is having a beneficial impact on the Northern Ireland economy,” Mr Martin told reporters yesterday. Officials in Dublin say that they have received a large amount of representations in support of the protocol from Northern business interests.

“I think there is a need now for pragmatism and commonsense,” Mr Martin added.

He said it is “unsatisfactory” and disappointing that the DUP had decided to block the election of an Assembly speaker yesterday.

“The people elected an Assembly, the Assembly should meet, and then the Assembly should form an executive,” Mr Martin said. “Yes, there are issues that unionism has raised with us in respect of the protocol, but those issues should not prevent the establishment and convening of the Assembly and the formation of the executive.”

Mr Martin said that the European Union had been “very flexible” in relation to the protocol, and has offered solutions on issues like medicines being exported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Mr Martin was speaking to reporters in Co Kildare at the unveiling of 29 homes in Sallins, Co Kildare. Officials said last night that the Taoiseach would visit Northern Ireland next Friday for meetings with the party leaders, including Sir Jeffrey Donaldson of the DUP. Mr Martin’s visit will follow one by the British prime minister Boris Johnson, who is due to go to Northern Ireland on Monday, it is understood.

Frustration

Senior sources in the Irish Government again expressed frustration with the British approach in recent days and privately Ministers and officials are scathing about the Johnson government, accusing it of endangering stability in Northern Ireland by playing politics with the protocol.

Some sources suggest that Dublin believes it is possible to assuage the concerns of the DUP about protocol with changes that the EU would be content with. But they have little trust that the British government would be happy with such a solution.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Foreign Affairs has said that the British government would be acting in an “anti-democratic” way if it goes through with its threat to over-ride elements of the post-Brexit treaty.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four, Mr Coveney said the EU wanted to implement the Northern Ireland protocol with “flexibility and pragmatism” to take account of unionist concerns.

Asked what were the implications of the UK government taking unilateral action on the protocol, Mr Coveney said: “People across the United Kingdom need to understand what that means, it means that your government is deliberately deciding to breach international law, which is something that every former prime minister still alive in Britain has warned against.

‘Deliberately acting’

“It means that the British government would be deliberately acting in an anti-democratic way because 53 of the 90 MLAs elected to the Assembly in Northern Ireland are supportive of the protocol,” he said.

Mr Coveney added: “Don’t forget this treaty was designed and ratified and agreed by the British government under this prime minister.

“He stood for election and got a huge mandate from the British people on the back of that deal and now is blaming the deal for the problems in Northern Ireland.”

However, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said the EU was trying to make the UK “feel bad” about Brexit through its approach to dealing with the Northern Ireland protocol.