Northern Ireland news

DUP attend all-Ireland event where Taoiseach Micheál Martin stresses need for `partnership on this island'

Taoiseach Mi­cheál Martin with DUP First Minister Paul Givan at the SSE in Belfast. Picture by Hugh Russell

TAOISEACH Micheál Martin has used DUP First Minister Paul Givan's attendance at an all-Ireland event to stress the need for "partnership on this island".

The Fianna Fáil leader also addressed unionist issues with the Northern Ireland Protocol at the Let's Power Change Together event in Belfast yesterday.

The DUP has been boycotting cross-border bodies, including the North-South Ministerial Council, in protest at the Protocol.

Sinn Féin deputy first minister Michelle O'Neill also took the opportunity to warn the DUP that it could not "cherry pick which parts of our peace agreement they want to work" as she criticised the party's non-engagement in the North South Ministerial Council.

"Deirdre Hargey, the minister who was supposed to have a North-South Ministerial Council meeting last week, is now seeking legal advice and will take a legal challenge for breach of the ministerial code," said Ms O'Neill.

She was speaking after a meeting with the Taoiseach on Brexit, describing such engagement as "very important... particularly given the last number of years the implications of Brexit, trying to find solutions and trying to find a way forward".

Taoiseach M�­che�¡l Martin with Northern Ireland's political leaders Paul Givan DUP and Michelle O'Neill Sinn Fein at the SSE Picture y Hugh Russell.

Mr Martin said he was "particularly pleased to speak at [the] event, alongside the First Minister and deputy First Minister, because meeting these fundamental changes - and these new opportunities - requires partnership".

He called for "joined-up policy approaches and coordinated investment on a cross-border basis".

The Taoiseach said the UK's "decision to leave the Single Market and the Customs Union" had brought "unique and significant implications for the island of Ireland", but the Protocol was "agreed between the EU and the UK - as the best possible way to mitigate" them.

Mr Martin insisted his government "recognise the genuine concerns of some in Northern Ireland on certain aspects of the operation of the Protocol" and "are engaging closely on these issues with all communities".

"My consistent position has been to get the Protocol working as smoothly as possible for people and for business in Northern Ireland."

Mr Martin said it offers "significant trade, business and employment opportunities for Northern Ireland", pointing out two thirds of Chamber of Commerce firms believe the the north's "unique status post EU exit presents opportunities for the region".

He said this is "no accident" but "a positive consequence... of the long and difficult negotiations on the Protocol".

Mirroring the conciliatory tone, while speaking about climate change Mr Givan acknowledged "our shared experience of the Covid-19 global pandemic has shown us that when we join together, we can find solutions that are for the good of humanity".

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