Northern Ireland news

Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern involved in efforts to get EU and UK back around the negotiating table

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern (left) and former prime minister Tony Blair at Queen's University in 2018. Picture by Brian Lawless/PA Wire.
John Manley

TONY Blair and Bertie Ahern have been involved in efforts to get the EU and British government back around the negotiating table, according to former Northern Ireland Office minister Conor Burns.

The Belfast-born Tory MP, who was yesterday appointed a junior trade minister by Prime Minister Liz Truss, told MPs that the architects of the Good Friday Agreement had been working behind the scenes over recent months in an effort to break the impasse around the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In one of his last acts as under secretary of state, Mr Burns thanked the two former premiers for their efforts.

"I would like to place on record in the house today my thanks to the former taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the former prime minister, Sir Tony Blair, for their assistance in the work that I have done over the summer," Mr Burns said.

"This weekend at the British-Irish Association in Oxford, I had constructive and prolonged talks with Vice-President (Maros) Sefcovic, and I am convinced that if the appetite exists, we can find a way to a negotiated solution to the Northern Ireland protocol in the interests of all the people of Northern Ireland and all the people of the United Kingdom—and in the interest of finding a new way of working in partnership with the European Union post-Brexit."

It is understood the former taoiseach will meet the European Commission vice-president in Brussels tonight at an event that will bring together MEPs and representatives from Stormont's main parties, including Sinn Féin and the DUP.

Meanwhile, on his appointment to the Department of Trade, Mr Burns tweeted that he was "delighted to be back" and was "excited" to be working with newly-appointed Minster for Trade Kemi Badenoc.