Ahead of the Taoiseach’s meeting with the new leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Edwin Poots, a Fine Gael TD has demanded the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement be fully restored.
Speaking in the Dáil today, Dublin Rathdown TD Deputy Neale Richmond said the North South Ministerial Council should not be viewed as optional and called on the Government to ensure the resumption of Council meetings.
Deputy Richmond said, “Over recent weeks we’ve seen a worrying pattern of North South Ministerial Council meetings cancelled at short notice due to a lack of a Unionist representative.
“Relations between Ireland and Northern Ireland are in a sensitive period; what we need are more meetings and more communication, not less.
“The North South Ministerial Council is a crucial component of the Good Friday Agreement and by cancelling these meetings, representatives are not living up to their responsibilities under the Agreement.
“It is important to remember that the Good Friday Agreement was supported by 71% of those in Northern Ireland and 94% of people in Ireland, and so the onus on politicians to abide by the Agreement is clear.
“It is very welcome that the Taoiseach will be meeting with the new DUP leader, Edwin Poots, this evening.
“The Taoiseach must press for the full implementation of the Good Friday Agreement during this meeting and call on Unionists to reaffirm their commitment to the Good Friday Agreement and its institutions.
“At this time of political transition in Northern Ireland, with many holding understandable concerns on their future post-Brexit, increased dialogue and engagement is in everyone’s best interest.
“It is impossible to address the concerns held by many Unionists if they refuse to engage, and the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement provide the fora to do just that.
“Beyond this, as we exit the pandemic, there are so many practical issues that require cooperation between ministers in both jurisdictions.
“There are transport links to be built, investment opportunities to maximise and educational endeavours to harness.
“No farmer benefits from our agricultural ministers not meeting, regardless of where on this island they farm or what political affiliations they may hold.
“Meetings of the North South Ministerial Council should not be viewed as optional and the Government must ensure their immediate resumption” Deputy Richmond concluded.