Ministers deny Ireland 'talking down' the North's economy to attract firms after Brexit

Three Government ministers have denied Ireland is deliberately talking down the Northern Irish economy as part of an attempt to convince firms to move south due to Brexit.

Ministers deny Ireland 'talking down' the North's economy to attract firms after Brexit

Arlene Foster, the North’s first minister, had insisted the situation was occurring.

Fine Gael’s Public Expenditure Minister Paschal Donohoe and Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan, and Independent Alliance Skills Minister John Halligan rejected the claim that Ireland is trying to undermine the North.

However, Mr Donohoe admitted the Government is “doing what you would expect it to do”.

On Saturday, Ms Foster, the leader of the DUP, alleged that Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s Government, IDA Ireland, and ministers are criticising the North’s economy in private meetings with investors.

In a speech to her party colleagues in Belfast, Ms Foster said she had evidence to back up her claims.

It comes just days after it emerged Ireland is trying to poach 100 UK-based companies and before Wednesday’s all-Ireland forum in Dublin which Ms Foster is refusing to attend.

“While they seek to take the views of people of Northern Ireland on Brexit at home, their representatives are sent out around the world to talk down our economy and to attempt to poach our investors,” she said.

Ms Foster repeated the remarks yesterday, saying: “We have been told by companies and indeed staff of ours in America that the Republic is going around to our companies, and indeed potential companies, portraying Northern Ireland as a negative place to go.”

Mr Donohoe, Mr Flanagan, and Mr Halligan yesterday denied Ms Foster’s claims.

Mr Donohoe said Brexit has caused “enormous challenges” both north and south of the border, and that, as a result, the Government was “upping our efforts to bring in jobs and investment”.

While rejecting suggestions the Republic is deliberately talking down Northern Ireland to investors, he said that “our agencies and this Government is doing what you would expect it to do” and that “we have to make the most of what’s going to be a challenging environment”, a position reiterated in a statement last night by Mr Halligan.

Mr Flanagan said he was “very surprised” at Ms Foster’s claim that “representatives of the Irish State were in any way poaching business or investors”.

He said both the Republic and the North need to work together in the post-Brexit situation, and that this should be the primary focus of both jurisdictions.

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