Micheál Martin: Brexit continues to ‘bedevil' NI politics
The outworkings of Brexit continue to “bedevil” politics in Northern Ireland, Taoiseach Micheál Martin has told an audience in Derry.
Mr Martin was addressing an event organised by the Hume Foundation at the Playhouse theatre in the city.
He referenced a security alert at a previous event in Belfast last week, when he said that all opposition to the Northern Ireland Protocol must be peaceful.
Last Friday, Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney had to abandon a speech to the Hume Foundation in Belfast following a security alert when a van driver was threatened by two gunmen and a hoax bomb placed in the vehicle.
Police have linked loyalist paramilitaries to the incident.
Mr Martin told the event: “The threat of violence last Friday targeting an innocent man, disrupting a family funeral in Belfast and the foundation’s cross-community event with Minister Coveney, underscores how much we still need John Hume’s message and means of peace-building today.
“I welcome that last week’s incident, and the attack on Doug Beattie’s office this week, have been condemned by political leaders from all communities, making clear that no purpose is served and nobody is represented by violence or a threat of violence.
“My government listens carefully to the concerns of all communities in Northern Ireland.”
He added: “As Taoiseach, I have engaged actively and constructively with unionist, nationalist and other political leaders across the spectrum here.
“The Irish government will never dismiss genuinely held concerns around the protocol, and we are working very actively with our EU partners to listen and engage on them, but any opposition must always be peaceful. That is simply fundamental.
“There are democratic and lawful means for all concerns to be raised and resolutions worked through. That is where our focus must remain.”
Reflecting on almost a quarter of a century since the Good Friday Agreement, Mr Martin said there had been reconciliation across the islands.
He added: “But we also see that the three sets of relationships accommodated in the Good Friday Agreement are strained, and they have been for some time now.
“The outworkings of Brexit, including the protocol, continue to bedevil politics in Northern Ireland and complicate both north/south and east/west relationships.
“The power-sharing Executive and North South Ministerial Council are, once again, not fully functioning, which is a source of deep concern.
“As it the fact that the legacy of the Troubles has still not been equitably dealt with. Leaving unmet the needs and legitimate expectations of victims and unresolved trauma in society.”
Ahead of the event, a number of homeowners affected by the mica scandal in Ireland staged a protest outside the theatre.
Thousands of Irish homes have crumbled because of mica, a mineral which absorbs water, causing walls to crack.
Mr Martin stopped to speak to the protesters before entering the theatre.
Earlier in the day, Mr Martin said he did not think twice about coming to Northern Ireland a week after the security alert which disrupted Mr Coveney’s visit.
The Taoiseach carried out a number of engagements during his visit to Derry.
He met with business leaders in the city and visited Ulster University’s Magee campus to discuss cross-border research projects.
The research projects are funded through the Irish government’s shared island initiative.
He also visited Altnagelvin Hospital, where the Irish government has part-funded cross-border cancer services.