Northern Ireland news

Taoiseach Micheál Martin to meet British prime minister Boris Johnson amid continued protocol concerns

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Taoiseach Micheál Martin are due to meet today. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin will today meet Prime Minister Boris Johnson with discussions on Northern Ireland and the peace process expected to top the agenda.

The lunchtime meeting, which the Dublin government says has been scheduled for some time, will take place at Chequers, the prime minister's Buckinghamshire retreat.

In a statement last night the Irish government said the meeting "is expected to cover the response to Covid-19, a range of issues relevant to peace and stability in Northern Ireland and the broader British-Irish relationship."

It comes against the background of continued unionist opposition to the protocol and a visit to the north earlier this week by Brexit minister Lord David Frost.

The Tory peer concluded his visit by saying the protocol, as it is currently operating, was not sustainable.

Given the events of recent days, however, the leaders are expected to discuss the verdict of the inquest into the 1971 killings of 10 people by the British army in Ballymurphy.

Relatives of victims last night spoke of their hopes that the taoiseach would "challenge" Mr Johnson about the manner in which an apology had been issued and urge him to meet them face to face.

The legacy of the Troubles more generally is also likely to be raised, with British government plans to introduce a statute of limitations expected to be the main focus.

Mr Martin's Fine Gael coalition partner and Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney had meetings with British officials last week but controversially was not informed of the plans to halt prosecutions for Troubles' offences ahead of reports the following day based on anonymous briefings.

The leaders' meeting coincides with the opening of a four-day high court hearing in Belfast challenging the protocol.

Applicants in the case are former Brexit Party MEP Ben Habib, ex-Labour MP Baroness Hoey, Lord David Trimble, departing DUP leader Arlene Foster, UUP leader Steve Aiken and TUV leader Jim Allister.

Consul for the legal challenge is former Stormont attorney general John Larkin QC.

The ruling in the case is not expected until next month.

In a joint statement ahead of today's hearing, the applicants said the case was about "not just trade and economic prosperity but the constitutional integrity of the United Kingdom".

“The purpose of this Judicial Review challenge is to undo the great wrong which was done in the imposition, without consent, of arrangements which leave Northern Ireland as a rule taker of foreign laws - over which we have no control, the United Kingdom partitioned down the Irish Sea and trade fettered disastrously with our biggest market," the statement said.

“All this we believe infringes our constitutional and economic entitlements under the Acts of Union and the assurances of the Belfast Agreement, as well as our basic democratic entitlement to be governed only by laws made by those we elect."

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