Taoiseach accepts UK’s ‘good faith’ in efforts to find resolution to Northern Ireland protocol

Martin says ‘window of opportunity’ for a deal exists after talks with Truss at European summit in Prague

Taoiseach Micheál Martin has said that he accepts the UK’s “good faith” in efforts to find a resolution to the Northern Ireland protocol, signalling a growing optimism that an agreement can be reached between the EU and UK on the issue.

Mr Martin was speaking at a summit of EU and non-EU European leaders in Prague on Thursday, where he again held brief discussions with prime minister Liz Truss, who also held talks with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen.

His remarks accepting the British good faith underline an abrupt change in tone from London on the protocol in the past week, after many months during which the EU side openly questioned the British bona fides.

Though officials stress that no substantive moves towards an agreement have been made, there is hope that the space may be opening for the two sides to reach a deal that would end the long-running dispute and pave the way – if it was acceptable to the DUP – to the revival of the Stormont institutions.


Mr Martin said that there was now a “window of opportunity” for an agreement.

Leaders from the 27 EU states are meeting with leaders of a number of non-EU European countries, including the United Kingdom, Turkey, Norway and Switzerland, as well as countries from the Balkans and eastern Europe, including Ukraine.

The summit was addressed via video link by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Mr Martin held a number of meetings with leaders from Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina, as well as with Denys Shmyhal, the prime minister of Ukraine. The Ukrainian prime minister said his compatriots who had sought refuge in Ireland had reported how “welcome and happy” they are in the country, officials said.

Thursday’s broader meeting will be followed by an EU-only summit tomorrow, at which there are likely to be informal discussions on the protocol and the state of freshly restarted talks with the UK, though the agenda will be dominated by the war in Ukraine, energy shortages and the cost-of-living crisis sweeping the continent.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney was in London for dinner last night with his British counterpart, James Cleverly, at the Irish Embassy. Sources indicated there was a good rapport between the ministers and both had indicated support for a negotiated solution between Brussels and London to address the protocol issues.

“It’s my view that there is a genuine wish on all fronts to have a negotiated resolution of all these issues. But I do believe we need to create space for that to happen, so I don’t intend to comment any further,” Mr Martin told reporters in Prague.

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times