Tánaiste Simon Coveney has hit out at Boris Johnson’s approach to Brexit, describing it as “very unhelpful”.
Speaking in Belfast, Mr Coveney said comments by Mr Johnson seem designed to set the UK on a collision course with the European Union and his approach is not the basis for an agreement.
"He seems to have made a deliberate decision to set Britain on a collision course with the European Union and with Ireland in relation to the Brexit negotiations, and I think only he can answer the question as to why he is doing that,” he said.
The Tánaiste was speaking following his first meeting with new Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith in Belfast. The meeting was the first interaction between the Dublin Government and the UK administration.
He said the dynamic between the British and Irish governments here as part of that process is really important.
“I think Julian Smith understands only too well the challenges we face and the importance of devolved government to Northern Ireland, to the Good Friday Agreement, to relationships across these islands,” the Tánaiste added.
“I think we will work well together to ensure that political parties in Northern Ireland are making decisions for themselves and for the people of Northern Ireland in a devolved institution, and a functioning executive that has essentially a fresh new start on the basis of a deal that I hope the parties will be able to put together soon rather than later,” he said.
The Tánaiste said Thursday was a very bad day from the perspective of Brexit negotiations.
Responding to Mr Coveney’s comments, Mr Smith said: “I don’t think we are on a collision course.
“I think we need to find solutions, particularly for the issue of the border, but the Prime Minister was very, very clear to his Cabinet yesterday that he wants to get a deal done but we do need to have structured conversations with the EU.
“I think they are open to doing that. I had a very, very good conversation with Simon today.”
Mr Smith was next asked about the potential impact of Brexit on border cities such as Derry.
“I’ve campaigned the last year and a half to get a deal, to get a deal through the House of Commons. As you know that has not been successful,” he said.
“I agree with the Prime Minister that we have to deliver a resolution of this issue by October 31. I am acutely aware of the specific and very particular issues that surround Brexit for this part of Northern Ireland and I have been made even more aware through the conversations I have had today.
“I believe we have to deliver on the result of referendum and exit by October 31.”
The next question to Mr Smith concerned his relationship with the DUP, after he attended the party’s conference in 2017.
Asked whether he believes former soldiers should not face prosecutions over incidents during Northern Ireland’s troubled past, Mr Smith said: “I think that we have said we will look at that issue, we are in the process of looking at that issue, there are some specific issues in Northern Ireland and I’ll be looking at that issue over the coming days and weeks.”