Martin: 'Extremely important' to repair relationship between Ireland and UK

The Taoiseach also said repairing relations between the European Union and the United States is also key
Martin: 'Extremely important' to repair relationship between Ireland and UK

Taoiseach Micheal Martin is keen to improve Ireland's international relationships this year. File picture: Julien Behal Photography

The Taoiseach says "it's extremely important" to repair relations with Britain in the wake of Brexit.

Micheál Martin spoke at an Institute of International & European Affairs (IIEA) conference on Friday about the future of the EU and Ireland's role in it.

He said the British-Irish relationship is high on the Government's agenda.

Relations had been tense between Britain and Ireland over the Brexit negotiations as the EU's steadfast insistence on the Northern Ireland protocol caused severe headaches for the British government.

But, moving forward, Mr Martin said it was key to repair any damage caused in recent years.

"That's extremely important in our view, and economically Britain is still enormous to Ireland, and we to Britain. 

We're the fifth largest export market for the UK, so it's extremely important that we get this right."

He added he "gets the sense" the UK government is keen on the idea.

"Even prior to the agreement, we were in contact about this and the need to push forward in terms of rebooting, resetting the Irish-UK relationship.

"So, the relations are warm and obviously, there will be challenges. So I think there is a good foundation there to reset the relationship."

The Taoiseach said repairing relations between the EU and the United States will also be important this year, as the US welcomes in a new president in Joe Biden. Mr Martin said President-elect Joe Biden wants to "rapidly reset" the relationship between the US and the EU, which deteriorated badly in recent years during the Trump administration.

"For example, that he wanted to rejoin the Paris accord, 'day one', is the language he used," Mr Martin said.

He wants to rejoin with the World Health Organisation, which was music to my ears.

"I do see a more multilateral trust coming from the new administration, which I think will sit well with the European Union, which is anxious to reset relationships. But I also get a sense within the European Union is a realisation that it can't be just business as normal, that Europe needs to up its game as well and step up in terms of its of its commitments.

"I think, interestingly, the UK, I think could be part of that approach and that's why it's so important that we did get a trade and cooperation agreement because I do sense that there's an opportunity here to have a counterweight to the other weights of authoritarianism that's emerging across the world and other forces so I'm hopeful about that."

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