Martin McGuinness equivocal over whether he's discussed special status plan with Arlene Foster

Deputy First minister Martin McGuinness did not say that he had discussed the potential for EU special status for the north with First Minister Arlene Foster. Picture by Hugh Russell

Sinn Féin has insisted that Martin McGuinness has argued for special EU status for the north consistently since June's referendum.

The deputy first minister appeared unable to confirm yesterday whether he had held discussions about his party's preferred 'designated status within the EU' for the region with First Minister Arlene Foster or the Dublin government.

Mr McGuinness was interviewed on RTE's Morning Ireland radio show ahead of the North South Ministerial Council meeting in Armagh.

The Sinn Féin MLA did not respond directly when asked whether he had discussed with Mrs Foster the possibility of Northern Ireland being granted special status within the EU

"Well I think if you look at the fact that Jeffrey Donaldson was on the Sean O'Rourke show just couple of weeks ago and then followed that up the following day in Brussels and he indicated that he recognised that the island of Ireland needs to be treated as a special case," he said.

Pressed to say if he and the first minister had "sat down and discussed this possibility for Northern Ireland" and whether the DUP leader would support special status, Mr McGuinness was equivocal.

"These are all areas of exploration that we will have to engage in the time ahead," he said. "Yes Arlene and I have had quite a number of discussions and I think the fact that even against the backdrop of having different positions in the run into the referendum we were able to agree a joint letter to the British prime minister outlining our very grave concerns around a range of issues, gives me grounds for hope that we can come to a common position."

He said the role of the Irish government was key.

"That's why today's meeting of the North South Ministerial Council meeting is so important and that's why I'm very pleased that when Arlene went to Dublin to meet with the taoiseach (Enda Kenny) it appeared to be a positive enough engagement following on from the meetings I had with the taoiseach, myself and Gerry Adams the week before," Mr McGuinness said.

The deputy first minister was then asked if he had discussed special status with the Irish government?

"I've had many discussions with the Irish government," he replied, before being asked whether he had discussed special status for the north specifically.

"We have discussed with the Irish Government the uniqueness of the situation we have to deal with," he said.

Elsewhere in the interview, Mr McGuinness said any attempt to restore the border would "be totally and absolutely unacceptable".

A Sinn Féin spokesman said the party was arguing for "designated status within the EU" for the north and that the deputy first minister had discussed the matter in "London, Dublin and Europe".

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