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Britain’s position on protocol spells difficult weeks ahead

Inside Politics: Almost half of Irish people do not trust Government to be honest, research shows


British foreign secretary, Liz Truss, has written a tightly-argued opinion piece in this morning’s new-look Irish Times.

There’s a bit of the velvet glove in her words. There’s also a fair bit of the steel fist, too. Since being appointed to the position, Truss has presented a far more reasonable face than her predecessors (not hard when one of them was David Frost).

She claims that solution that she is bringing forwards will not mean “ripping up the protocol” but will mean changes to it. In short, it is the green channel and red channel proposal, coupled with a trusted trader scheme. Green channel goods would go from Britain to Northern Ireland and stop there. Red channel goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain would be destined for the Republic or for the EU.

This, she claims, will protect the Belfast Agreement. Others say it will have the complete opposite effect.

There is no doubt that the UK is intent on moving unilaterally if an agreement is not reached. “While our door remains open to talks, we cannot allow any more drift or delay. Without an Executive and no prospect of one until these concerns can be addressed, we need to provide reassurance to Northern Ireland that the problems with the protocol will be fixed one way or another….

“That is why I have announced our intention to introduce legislation in the coming weeks.”

Britain claims that the problems with the operation of the Northern Ireland protocol are “baked in” to its text and that’s why it needs to be renegotiated.

The article is a useful contribution to the debate but the message from the UK is fundamentally the same. Unless the EU concedes, it will move to unilateral action. It’s going to be a difficult few weeks.

Government trust

It will probably come as no surprise to most people that politicians are not the most trusted group in the country. But the results of new research commissioned by UCD are pretty shocking.

As Jennifer Bray reports, almost half of Irish people do not trust the Government to be honest and truthful while a majority believe it communicates inaccurate and biased information.

That’s a desultory scenario. And not deserved. The UCD research was based on a survey of 12,000 people across six countries. It showed the level of distrust in Irish politicians and government was almost twice that of comparator countries such as German and Norway.

Abstention once again

Sinn Féin is no longer opposed to the Special Criminal Court. Nor is it for it. Last year for the first time, the party did not vote against the extension of the emergency powers for the court. Those emergency powers, by the way, will be 50 years old next year.

Last year, Sinn Féin TDs left the Dáil chamber before the vote was taken. Absenting rather than abstaining was the party’s tactic.

As Cormac McQuinn reports, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee was given approval yesterday to exerted the Offences Against the State Act for a further 12 months.

Sinn Féin Dublin Mid West TD Eoin Ó Broin confirmed on Tuesday that the party will abstain again this year. “We won’t be opposing or objecting to the renewal,” he said.

As Cormac reports, Mr Ó Broin said his party would have “no difficulty whatsoever” in making an annual declaration of the properties it owns.

It comes after the Cabinet signed off on amendments to the forthcoming Electoral Reform Bill 2022 that would require political parties to disclose their property portfolios every year.

The measure is set to have the biggest impact on Sinn Féin, which is believed to have the largest property portfolio of any of the parties.

Best reads

Miriam Lord’s column reports on a monkey pox of a different kind amid the absence of the three most senior organ-grinders from the Dáil.

Freya McClement reports that the UK government has finally given the Irish language official recognition in Northern Ireland. That is a step change.

Sarah Burns reports from the Oireachtas on a debate in which Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney talked about female journalists being targeted with violence and harassed. He honed in on the killing by TV reporter Shireen Abu Akleh by Israeli forces, saying Israel must give “swift accountability” for its actions.

In his column, Michael McDowell argues that the public should have been alerted to Eamon Ryan’s assertion that Ireland will not be considering using nuclear power “for decades”.

Playbook

Taoiseach Micheál Martin is in Davos today where he will be talking on a panel of world leaders about the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.

Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and the Greens will hold their parliamentary party meetings today.

Dáil

10am: Private Members’ business (People Before Profit-Solidarity): Motion re strike action by the Medical Laboratory Scientists Association.

12pm: Leaders’ Questions.

2.04pm: Statements on the protocol, legacy issues and the implementation of the Belfast Agreement.

5.34pm: Motion re Extension of Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2021.

6.29pm: Finance (Covid-19 and Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2022 (Amendments from the Seanad).

6.59pm: Consumer Credit (Amendment) Bill 2022 (Report and Final Stages).

7.29pm: Child Care (Amendment) Bill 2022 (Committee and remaining Stages).

8.59pm: Weekly divisions.

9.29pm: Dáil adjourns.

Seanad

12.45pm: Protected Disclosures (Amendment) Bill 2022 – second stage.

3pm: Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill 2022 – committee stage (resumed).

6.45pm: Private Members’ Business: National Minimum Wage (Payment of Interns) Bill 2022 – second stage (Labour Party Senators).

8.45pm: Seanad adjourns.

Committees

9.30am: Social protection:

Discussion on “Community Employment Schemes”.

Representatives from SIPTU.

9.30am: Joint Committee on Enterprise:

Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Personal Injuries Resolution Board Bill 2022.

Representatives from Alliance for Insurance Reform.

Representatives from Insurance Ireland.

9.30am: Joint Committee on European Union Affairs:

Engagement with the Ukrainian Ambassador, H.E. Ms Larysa Gerasko.

1.30pm: Joint Committee on Tourism, Culture, Arts, Sport and Media:

Working conditions and skills shortages in Ireland’s tourism and hospitality sector.

Representatives from Licensed Vintners Association.

Representatives from Vintners’ Federation of Ireland.

Officials from Deptartment of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media.

1.30pm: Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure:

Engagement with Financial Services Union re impact of withdrawal of Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish market.

Engagement with Electric Ireland re impact of withdrawal of Ulster Bank and KBC from the Irish market.

1.30pm: Comhchoiste na Gaeilge:

‘Ag spreagadh foilsitheoireacht agus léitheoireacht na Gaeilge’.

Ionadaithe ó Sheirbhís Leabharlainne Chathair Bhaile Átha Cliath agus ó Seirbhís Leabharlainne Chontae na Gaillimhe.