After weeks where the political agenda has been dominated by the budget, Brexit has returned to haunt us in the build up to Halloween.
The news emerged on Monday that the EU and UK are set to return to talks this week in a bid to resolve the deadlock over the Northern Ireland protocol.
The development comes after Steve Baker – a minister of state at the Northern Ireland Office and hardline Brexiteer – apologised for failing to understand Irish concerns during previous Brexit negotiations.
While Taoiseach Micheál Martin welcomed his words as “honest” and “very helpful”, they are irrelevant when if comes to the technical talks on the protocol about to begin between Brussels and London.
It’s a change in tone from the British side but as Pat Leahy and Naomi O’Leary report today, senior Government sources here are waiting to see if it would be accompanied by a change in substance.
Several sources confirmed a wait-and-see attitude was being taken in Dublin and Brussels, with one saying they were “not that excited” about the apparent UK change of approach.
A key test will be whether British red lines remain in place, such as the demand that the European Court of Justice no longer has a role in adjudicating on disputes over the protocol.
Another is whether London will push ahead with its legislation to scrap parts of the protocol for trade aimed at preventing a hard border in Ireland.
Ireland is clear that any British attempt to strike a bilateral agreement with the Government on the protocol would be resisted and Ireland’s position in the EU single market will not be undermined.
EU leaders will meet for an informal summit in Prague later this week where the energy crisis tops the agenda.
British prime minister Liz Truss’s surprise announcement that she will attend a meeting of the European Political Community alongside the summit has boosted hopes of a reset in EU-UK relations.
Rumbling away in the background is the continuing failure to form a Northern Ireland Executive, with the DUP insisting it won’t return to power-sharing due to its concerns over the protocol.
Northern secretary Chris Heaton-Harris has set an October 28th deadline to restore the Executive and there is the prospect of a pre-Christmas election.
We can expect Brexit to return in a big way over the coming weeks.
An Bord Pleanála
The Cabinet meets this morning with a major overhaul of An Bord Pleanála (ABP) up for discussion.
As Arthur Beesley reports, the Government is poised to scrap two-person decision boards, ending a practice that was in place for a decade before controversy engulfed the planning appeals body earlier this year.
Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien also wants Cabinet backing to change how ABP board appointments are made and to allow up to 14 people to sit on it.
Usually there are 10 board members, but at the moment there are only six.
The measures are aimed at restoring public confidence in ABP.
It comes following the resignation during the summer of Paul Hyde as ABP deputy chairman and aims to strengthen disciplinary and complaints procedures.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is reviewing a Garda file on Mr Hyde and a decision is anticipated within days on whether to prosecute him following a Garda investigation into claims of alleged impropriety in his work.
Mr Hyde, who denied any wrongdoing, resigned in July amid inquiries into alleged conflicts of interest in some of his decisions.
Our lead story by Conor Gallagher outlines how former Sinn Féin councillor Jonathan Dowdall is to be given a new identity and relocated to an English-speaking country as part of efforts to keep him safe after he agreed to provide evidence relating to the 2016 Regency Hotel shooting.
On the opinion pages, Fintan O’Toole questions why Ireland is “excruciatingly slow” to use public money to help ordinary people, asking why plans for the State to help with IVF treatments and bring in free school books have taken so long.
The woes of British chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng and his U-turn on a tax cut for higher earners contained in a disastrous mini-budget are detailed here.
Cabinet meets this morning. Aside from ABP, there is expected to be a briefing by Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue on the EU’s new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and how it will be worth almost €10 billion to farmers here between 2023 and 2027. Ministers are also expected to consider a memo on energy measures announced in the budget. It is understood to include proposals for the legislation to allow for the payment of the three planned €200 electricity bill credits for all households. There is a provision to ensure members of the Travelling Community who may pay their local authorities for energy bills get the credit.
Dáil proceedings kick off at 2pm with Leaders’ Questions, with statements on the Government’s update of its Housing for All plan due at 3.50pm.
There will be a debate on a Sinn Féin Private Members’ motion seeking to scrap the concrete block levy announced in the budget from 7.20pm. The Government hopes to raise €80 million per year from the levy in a bid to at least part-fund the €2.57 billion mica redress scheme. Critics of the plan, including Sinn Féin and some Coalition backbenchers, say it will just push up the price of houses. There is a report teeing up the debate here.
In committeeland the enforcement of road traffic offences will be examined by TDs and Senators from 3pm, with representatives from the gardaí, Dublin Bus, Bike Dublin and the Limerick Pedestrian Network appearing in committee room one.