Simon Coveney to urge state talks on restoring power-sharing

Tánaiste Simon Coveney will further press the British government today to reinstate a special conference between both governments to assist the resumption of power-sharing in the North.

The Foreign Affairs minister will meet Northern Secretary Karen Bradley in London and again seek an answer to Ireland’s request for the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIGC) to meet.

Sinn Féin wants the conference convened, which would see formal talks on the North between ministers from both sides and between Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and British prime minister Theresa May. The bilateral co-operation is allowed for under the Good Friday Agreement.

However, the DUP and leader Arlene Foster oppose the BIGC, which last met a decade ago and is viewed by unionists as giving Dublin a more direct role in negotiations around the North.

Mr Coveney last night travelled to Luxembourg and hosted a dinner with counterparts from Lithuania, Latvia, Denmark, Finland, and the Netherlands, They discussed Brexit negotiations and Ireland’s concern around the possible return of a hard border.

The Tanaiste is in Luxembourg for today’s foreign affairs council meeting, where Syria and missile raids on it will be discussed.

Meanwhile, a Fine Gael senator has claimed British Brexit secretary David Davis has a “wholly inaccurate impression” of Ireland that is shared by the while House of Commons.

Fine Gael senator Neale Richmond said there was ignorance of Ireland across the board.

“Barry Gardiner, the shadow spokesman on Brexit, recently declared that the Good Friday Agreement was a purely economic deal,” he said on RTÉ’s The Week in Politics. “That is ignorant, and an insulting position to hold.”

Mr Davis’ claim last week that Sinn Féin had a strong influence on the Government was “surprising”. The Brexit secretary had some understanding of Ireland but knowledge of this country and its politics was “absolutely absent” among rank-and-file MPs, he said.

“They do not understand Ireland,” said Mr Richmond. “They do not know where the border is. They do not know who the Taoiseach is, or where Sinn Féin are at.”


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