French President Francois Hollande has bolstered Ireland's position to secure a “special situation” in discussions with European leaders during Brexit negotiations, writes Juno McEnroe, Political Correspondent.
Mr Hollande said that he understood that the Good Friday Agreement needed to be “preserved” as he described how he was very aware of the potential impact of Brexit on Ireland.
President Francois Hollande says France believes the sooner Brexit negotiations begin, the better. https://t.co/xzCYQkcKkj— RTÉ News (@rtenews) July 21, 2016
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the French president discussed links between the two countries, security matters in the wake of the Nice massacre as well as Ireland's position following the decision by Britain to leave the European Union.
Ireland "stands by France", says Enda Kenny after talks in Dublin with French President Francois Hollande. https://t.co/9Qxh3eGoBG— RTÉ News (@rtenews) July 21, 2016
Mr Hollande said negotiations for Britain's withdrawal should happen “sooner rather than later”.
He thanked the Irish for their solidarity following the recent attack in Nice which killed 84 people.
The two countries needed to continue to exchange information about terrorists, he said.
But speaking at the press conference in government buildings this morning, he also said a “special situation [for Ireland] has to find a place in the negotiations.”
Mr Kenny stressed the peace process and Good Friday Agreement were unique and “absolutely essential”.
President Hollande understood our position for the negotiations, he said.
Mr Hollande's trip comes after the Nice massacre last week in which 84 people were killed in the southern French city.
The French president is touring European countries, ahead of an EU leaders summit in September, pushing for stronger defence and security cooperation in the wake of the terror attack.
While the Republic's leader abandoned pre-planned trips to Austria, Czech Republic and Slovakia this week, he kept the arranged visit to Ireland.
The president was accompanied by Harlem Désir, France's secretary of state for European Affairs.
His comments come after French ambassador Jean Pierre Thebault said last week that it was crucial that Ireland and France retained strong trade links in a post Brexit Europe.
Mr Kenny is pushing for Ireland to hold a “unique position” in the post Brexit vote negotiations, particularly in relation to the border area in the North and the free movement of people.
Government sources say the Taoiseach wants Ireland to be considered a “special case” when the next EU summit is held in Bratislava in September.
Mr Kenny faced a disappointing response last week from German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who did not take single out Ireland as being such a case, following Britain's decision to leave the EU.