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Dublin's concern over ‘investment poaching' claims made by Arlene Foster

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan hold a press conference before Secretary Kerry received the Tipperary International Peace Prize at the Aherlow House Hotel. Picture by Niall Carson, Press Association

THE Republic's Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan has spoken of his 'surprise and concerns' about allegations that government officials in the Republic were poaching foreign investment from Northern Ireland.  

Mr Flanagan was responding to remarks made by First Minister Arlene Foster at her DUP conference on Saturday where she claimed the Irish government had talked down the north to poach business for themselves.

“I was concerned and I was surprised. These were issues that hadn’t been raised with me,” he told The Irish News.

“I spoke last evening to the Minister for the Economy, Simon Hamilton. I expressed my concern and he and I agreed that it’s important that we work together, which we will do."

Ms Foster also used her speech at her party conference in Belfast on Saturday to claim that concerns in Dublin about Brexit were driven by political instability in the Republic.

Mr Flanagan addressed the row on Sunday after holding talks with US Secretary of State John Kerry as the key White House figure collected the Tipperary International Peace Prize.

On the DUP leader's comments he said: “I am very concerned at the claim that representatives of the Irish Government were allegedly talking down the Northern Ireland economy, very concerned at allegations that representatives of the Irish State were in any way poaching business or investors.

“I believe it’s important that the unique relationship of the people on this island forms part of the negotiated framework in the matter of the relationship between the United Kingdom and the European Union," he said.

“We need to work together, we have to work together, in order to ensure economic and social prosperity for all the people on this island and that is the priority for my government and my government colleagues.”

The DUP declined to comment further on Sunday night.

Sinn Féin deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness also spoke of his suprrise at Ms Foster’s comments.

Speaking on RTÉ’s This Week, Mr McGuinness said: "I was very surprised to hear Arlene say that at her party conference, given that earlier this week she and I met with a Chinese invest and we were accompanied by the Chief Executive of Invest NI, and this wasn't mentioned."

The Sinn Féin politician said it was incumbent on both administrations north and south to ensure they have their act together in terms of protecting the interests of the people who live on the island of Ireland.

He said the All-Island Civic Dialogue on Brexit, taking place in Dublin on Wednesday, would be a good place to discuss such matters.

Mr McGuinness said: "From our perspective what we have to do is recognise the massive challenges that we face in the time ahead.

“That's why I think the discussions which will take place in Dublin during the course of the week are very very important, giving a vital opportunity for stakeholders who will come from everywhere, right throughout the North also, to have a conversation about where all of this is going," he told RTE.

“And I think it is incumbent on ourselves, myself and Arlene and the Taoiseach to ensure that we have our act together in terms of protecting the interest of the people who live on this island," the deputy first minister added.

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