Micheál Martin’s office has to apologise to Arlene Foster for ‘cock-up’

The Taoiseach's office has been forced to apologise to Northern Ireland's First Minister after just 10 days in office.
Micheál Martin’s office has to apologise to Arlene Foster for ‘cock-up’
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds (centre) after a press conference outside the Merchant Hotel. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster (right) and Northern Ireland Economy Minister Diane Dodds (centre) after a press conference outside the Merchant Hotel. Picture: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

The Taoiseach's office has been forced to apologise to Northern Ireland's First Minister after just 10 days in office.

The apology came after a government source had "over zealously" briefed a media outlet that the first meeting between Micheál Martin as Taoiseach, First Minister Arlene Foster and deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill was to take place today, despite no meeting being organised.

A government spokesperson said that a "scheduling difficulty" was the reason the visit would not now go ahead, noting that the problem was not in Dublin.

A senior source in the Northern Ireland Executive stated that the Taoiseach's office have since apologised for the "cockup".

"Someone briefed out there was meeting on Thursday but no one had notified the Executive Office and it doesn't suit the Office of First Minister and Deputy First Minister to meet on Thursday," they said.

"It seemed to be an administrative cockup. I don't know if it was as much teething problems or someone got over zealous speaking to media, but the first the office had heard about it was what we read in the paper.

"The first official correspondence we got was at around 10pm last night. That was after journalists had been on the phone to us about it for five hours.

"It wouldn't work, so the Taoiseach's office has apologised for the confusion, they said it was at an administrative level."

Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a media briefing following the first cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Picture: Julien Behal
Taoiseach Micheal Martin during a media briefing following the first cabinet meeting at Dublin Castle. Picture: Julien Behal

However, Sinn Féin sources say all parties to the meeting were made aware of the invitation with more than 24 hours notice and the matter had been discussed by the Taoiseach's office and the Office of the Deputy First Minister, but there had been "radio silence from the DUP".

It's understood that Deputy Leader of Northern Ireland Sinn Féin's Michelle O'Neill had made herself available for the Thursday meeting, however was told it did not suit the First Minister.

"The office saying they didn't get notification until last night is impossible, it had been logged in the system a day before that,” a Sinn Féin source said.

It was decided by all parties involved that the meeting will now "probably be arranged for next week."

The embarrassing briefing error comes just one day after the Taoiseach said he "would favour a stronger north-south relationship and the development of that," in lieu of a border poll on a united Ireland, which he labelled "divisive".

“I don’t believe precipitating or organising a referendum like that is the way to go," Mr Martin said.

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