The Taoiseach has insisted that the North’s post-Brexit special trade status – giving free access to EU and British markets – is already benefitting the economy there.
r Martin challenged arguments by the London government and the Democratic Unionist Party that the requirement for some checks on British goods going into the North was economically damaging.
The Taoiseach said there was growing evidence now that more inward investment creating jobs was now flowing into the North because of the so-called “Northern Ireland Protocol” which Britain is now threatening to unilaterally set aside.
Speaking at the opening of a new 29-home estate in Sallins, Co Kildare, Mr Martin said he was also very disappointed at the failure of the new Northern Ireland Assembly to appoint a speaker today to allow the Belfast parliament to function. He urged politicians of all parties in the North to get on with getting the power-sharing assembly and executive back to work to address citizens’ issues like cost of living, health and housing.
“Yes, there are issues that unionism has raised with us in respect of the Protocol. But those issues should not obstruct the convening of an assembly and the formation of an executive,” the Taoiseach insisted.
Mr Martin glossed over questions on whether the North’s MLAs should be paid if they fail to operate power-sharing. He said that may “become an issue down the road” but for now he was just appealing for politicians to work the structures.
Mr Martin then urged the UK and EU to resume talks and find a compromise on how the North’s new trade operations can operate effectively. He argued that the EU had shown great flexibility in talks to date on things like British medicine supplies being allowed into the North – but this was not reciprocated by London.
“There is now a need for pragmatism and common sense and putting the interests of the people of Northern Ireland first,” Mr Martin said.
The Taoiseach also signalled a belief that the controversy surrounding the new National Maternity Hospital’s location and legal status may be drawing to a close. He said the past two weeks of debate had been beneficial and all relevant documents had been published.
On housing, the Taoiseach said he expected 24,600 new homes would be built in 2022. But a yearly total of 33,000 to 35,000 new homes was required into the future and work would continue to provide that.