Taoiseach Micheál Martin is expected to meet UK prime minister Liz Truss for discussions on the Northern Ireland protocol on the margins of the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II next week, Irish and UK officials have confirmed.
The leaders met at a memorial service for the queen in Belfast on Tuesday and spoke on the telephone last Friday after Ms Truss succeeded Boris Johnson. However, next week’s meeting will be the first opportunity for substantive discussions on the issue.
European Union chief negotiator Maros Sefcovic indicated this week that the EU was willing to eliminate checks on all but a few lorries travelling into Northern Ireland from Britain every day. But officials in Dublin and Brussels say they are still waiting for firm signals that the new British government is prepared to enter meaningful negotiations on the post-Brexit protocol.
The Government is keen to see talks resume and Mr Martin is likely to explore possible routes to an agreement with Ms Truss, though Dublin regularly reiterates that the negotiations are between the European Commission, which represents Ireland and the other EU members states, and the UK — not between the Dublin and London governments.
Ms Truss has spoken to the leaders of several EU member states, but not yet to Ursula von der Leyen, the commission’s president.
If the resolution to the dispute fails to satisfy the DUP, and persuades the party to return to the Stormont power-sharing institutions before the end of October, fresh elections in Northern Ireland will be triggered.
Meanwhile, the European ombudsman has criticised Ms Truss as being someone “in it for the power” and who is preoccupied with issues others were “sick of hearing about”. Emily O’Reilly said Ms Truss was motivated by the same “impulses and instincts” for power as her predecessor Mr Johnson.
“I don’t see anything in her background that leads me to believe that she is being motivated by particular issues, apart from the generality of griping issues that we’re all sick and tired of hearing about and having imposed on us at the moment,” she said.
“In it for the power, wanting the power. What you do with the power, I don’t know, it depends on the day of the week it is,” she said.
Ms O’Reilly, a former journalist and Irish ombudsman, was re-elected in late 2019 for a second term as European ombudsman, an office which acts as a watchdog of EU bodies and institutions.