Reacting to the news that another North South Ministerial Council meeting will not go ahead due to a boycott from a DUP Minister, a Fine Gael TD has warned that the Good Friday Agreement cannot become a political plaything.
Speaking at a joint meeting between Oireachtas and Northern Irish Assembly members, Dublin Rathdown Deputy Neale Richmond said: “It is absolutely maddening that another North South Ministerial Council meeting will not go ahead today.
“The decision by DUP Leadership candidate, Edwin Poots, to skip today’s North South Ministerial Agricultural meeting is utterly wrong and an abdication of his duties to all those he represents.
“How is this boycott helping any farmer of any political background anywhere on this island?
“We face many shared challenges across this island, not just in relation to Brexit, but particularly as we reopen our economies and societies following the horrors of the Covid19 pandemic.
“As part of the Good Friday Agreement, the meetings of the North South Ministerial Council are at the heart of everyday life for everyone, bringing together Ministers from Northern Ireland and the Republic to discuss issues of mutual concern where there is a tangible benefit to working together.
“The reason for the non-attendance of some DUP Ministers is said to be rooted in anger over the Northern Ireland Protocol. If certain DUP Ministers hold genuine concerns over the Protocol and its impact on their Ministry, what better place to raise it than in a meeting with members of the Irish Government? The Irish Government is more than willing to engage on the concerns held by Unionists and to work together to address them, but this cannot be done in isolation.
“We do have some Unionist Ministers continuing to meet their obligations to the meetings of the North South Ministerial Council. Not only is this welcome but it has resulted in tangible agreements on practical issues that will benefit everyone including the completion of the Ulster Canal, a significant strategic transport project which will also be a massive boost to tourism on this island.
“Now is a time for cool heads and practical work from all public representatives. While Unionism may be undergoing a period of transition when it comes to leadership, the Good Friday Agreement cannot become a political plaything,” Deputy Richmond concluded.