Republic, UK and EU agree to tackle Northern Ireland unrest

Coveney hails ‘honest engagement’ on contentious issues at constructive London talks

Brussels, London and Dublin agreed to work together towards solutions following unrest in Northern Ireland.

The agreement was reached in a series of meetings on Thursday aimed at putting relations on a "constructive" footing after a difficult start for the North's post-Brexit arrangements.

European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic and his British counterpart Lord David Frost held a dinner meeting in Brussels intended to provide “a political steer for follow-up discussions that will take place between both teams”, said a commission spokesman.

It came as the British and Irish governments agreed to a meeting of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC) in the coming months to discuss issues of concern in Northern Ireland.


“We haven’t agreed a date yet but certainly I think the governments are in agreement that there should be a BIIGC meeting and I think we’ll continue to talk about the appropriate time for that,” Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney told The Irish Times.

Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis earlier this week dismissed the idea that the intergovernmental conference should meet to discuss recent unrest in the North, on the grounds that policing is among the powers devolved to Stormont.

The intergovernmental conference was established under the Belfast Agreement as a forum for co-operation between the two governments on Northern Ireland. It has not met since Boris Johnson became British prime minister.

Mr Coveney was in London holding meetings with key political figures including Lord Frost, in what Mr Coveney described as “a very good meeting . . . on a personal level” and “a good, honest engagement that explored in some detail some of the issues in terms of what’s possible and what’s not”.

Brussels and London remain far apart on some issues, with Britain seeking flexibility while the commission has said pragmatic solutions can be found only if the Northern Ireland protocol is implemented fully.

The European Parliament has yet to ratify the EU-UK trade deal, which is in place provisionally until the end of the month. The leader of the largest political group in the parliament, Manfred Weber, called on the commission to “convincingly demonstrate how it will ensure that London will remain faithful to the treaty”.

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton

Denis Staunton is China Correspondent of The Irish Times

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary

Naomi O’Leary is Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times