New PM Truss has chance to ‘reset’ relationship between Ireland and Britain, says Taoiseach

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said the appointment of Liz Truss as the UK’s 56th and newest prime minister offers a chance to “reset” the fractured relationship between Britain and Ireland.

An Taoiseach Micheal Martin TD. Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Speaking in Oxford at the weekend conference of the British Irish Association Martin said he is “anxious” that a window of opportunity is opening to repair relations.

Mr Martin told Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ):

“We are very anxious that a window of opportunity is opening up, the election of a new British prime minister and new government presents an opportunity to reset the British-Irish relationship and also the European Union and United Kingdom relationship in context of the protocol.

“The spirit within which we are approaching next week and beyond is a constructive one.

“We believe the breadth and depth of the UK-Irish relationship is such that there’s an imperative on us all to work together in a constructive way.

“We are prepared to do that and also in the context of Northern Ireland, in terms of resolutions of issues around the protocol.”

The Taoiseach also said that the outcome of the Northern Ireland elections – in which Sinn Féin topped the poll and the DUP came second – should be honoured.

The DUP has blocked all attempts to form a government based on that result.

The current Northern Ireland Secretary Shailesh Vara, expected to be replaced, has suggested that if the impasse continues he will call new elections, something believed to be favoured by the DUP.

“The people of Northern Ireland gave a mandate to their politicians,” said Mr Martin.

“We are going through unprecedented energy price increases on the island of Ireland.

“There’s responsibility and obligations on the politicians in Northern Ireland to respond to that with the resources they have at their disposal.

“The most effective way of doing that is then restore the Executive and the Assembly, that’s what we want to see first.

“We should avoid the need for any further elections and should take the next number of weeks, take that opportunity through the EU-UK dialogue, to resolve issues around the operation of the protocol.”

Mr Martin told the conference in Oxford that the British government’s plans to scrap the deal it agreed with the EU, the NI Protocol, risks “further instability” in Northern Ireland and damage to key sectors of its economy.

He said Britain’ unilateral action on the protocol and on Troubles legacy legislation is at “odds with the spirit of partnership” of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

The Taoiseach also said that Brexit has “fundamentally changed” the relationship between the UK and the EU.

“It is critical therefore that we find a way through this undeniably difficult phase to build better relationships.

“Like all long-term relationships, there are times when we don’t understand each other as well, perhaps misunderstand each other’s actions and the resulting consequences, but ultimately, we both want and need to make it work.

“Regrettably, unilateral action on the protocol and on legacy is at odds with the spirit of partnership that is needed to underpin the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is testing and fraying that partnership between us. It risks further instability in Northern Ireland and damage to key sectors of the economy.”

Mr Martin said he wants to work with Britain’s new prime minister in an “open and constructive way”.

“I sincerely believe that the EU would respond positively to a serious and genuine signal from the new British prime minister that their priority is to reach an agreed outcome on the issues around implementation of the protocol,” he added.

“Brexit marked a fundamental change in the EU-UK relationship, and the type of Brexit chosen by the British Government has meant that the trading relationships on these islands have been fundamentally altered.

“That made finding a new set of arrangements – one that would not, and could not be, a return to the trading arrangements that operated before Brexit – absolutely imperative.

“I am deeply concerned about the British Government’s legislation which would unilaterally undo core elements of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

“Concerned by what it means for the partnership approach we want to see between the EU and the UK; concerned by the wider message it sends about a rules-based international order; and, most of all, concerned because it is neither in the interests of the people of Northern Ireland nor what they want.”

The failure to form a devolved government in Northern Ireland can only be to the “detriment” of the public there.

“What we are faced with is the decision of one political party not to participate in the Northern Ireland Executive, and by so doing, damaging the functioning of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. It is unacceptable.

“I have been completely consistent on this issue and expressed my views in the same terms when Sinn Féin withdrew from the Executive in 2017.

“When the Executive broke down on previous occasions the two Governments and the political parties worked together to resolve issues, make progress and restore the Institutions.

“That should be our approach now also, with issues regarding the Protocol addressed in parallel through EU-UK talks.”