Irish PM Micheál Martin says Queen’s death is chance to ‘reset’ relations between Britain and Ireland and ‘enhance’ links following Brexit rows
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The Taoiseach claimed Her Majesty’s passing should offer ‘time for reflection’ and ‘remind us of the need to proactively nurture the relationship’ between the two countries.
Mr Martin this afternoon attended a memorial service for the Queen at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast.
The service was held as part of King Charles’s Operation Spring Tide tour of all UK nations, following his proclamation as monarch.
The King and Queen Consort, Camilla, were joined at the Belfast service by Irish President Michael D Higgins and his wife Sabina, as well as Mr Martin and Irish Foreign Affairs minister Simon Coveney.
Earlier today, Charles and Camilla met with new Northern Ireland Secretary Chris Heaton-Harris and the leaders of Northern Ireland’s political parties at Stormont.
Their visit – and the Queen’s death – have come at a time of heightened political tensions at Stormont and between the UK and Irish governments over post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.
But Mr Martin, in an interview with the BBC prior to today’s memorial service, suggested it could now be a moment to repair relations that have been damaged by the Northern Ireland Protocol row.
The Taoiseach described the Queen’s historic visit to Ireland in 2011, the first by a British monarch in 100 years, as a ‘watershed moment’ for Anglo-Irish relations and said it had left his country with a ‘fondness’ for Her Majesty.
Micheal Martin speaks with Liz Truss at today’s memorial service for the Queen at St Anne’s Cathedral in Belfast
Ireland’s Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney also attended the service, which is part of King Charles’ Operation Spring Tide tour of all UK nations
Ms Truss also spoke with Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill at the Belfast memorial service
Her Majesty’s death has come at a time of heightened political tensions at Stormont and between the UK and Irish governments over post-Brexit arrangements
The Queen visited Dublin’s Croke Park as part of her historic visit to Ireland in 2011, the first by a British monarch in 100 years
‘I would like to think that the visit of Queen Elizabeth II first of all to Ireland, her passing would give us all time for reflection,’ Mr Martin said.
‘And will remind us of the need to proactively nurture the relationship between Britain and Ireland to enhance it in the time ahead.
‘And that this moment gives us that opportunity for reflection and for resetting, in a good way, that relationship.’
Mr Coveney this morning suggested King Charles would see ‘strengthening the relationship between Britain and Ireland’ as part of his role as monarch.
‘Don’t forget, the Royal Family themselves have been deeply impacted by violence in Northern Ireland in terms of their own family and loss,’ he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
‘I expect that he will want to see his role being part of protecting and building and strengthening the relationship between Britain and Ireland given the complexity of our past and given the polarisation of political opinion, particularly in Northern Ireland.’
Lord Mountbatten, the King’s great uncle to whom he was close, was murdered by the IRA in 1979.
The ‘bureaucratic’ implementation of the Protocol by the EU – including the imposition of physical customs checks – has been blamed by UK ministers for hampering trade between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The DUP have refused to re-enter a power-sharing administration in Northern Ireland until the Protocol, part of the UK’s Brexit deal with the EU, is reformed.
New Prime Minister Liz Truss is also threatening to push ahead with legislation at Westminster to scrap key elements of the Protocol if negotiations with the EU on revamping trade rules continue to stall.
This has caused a furious response from both Dublin and Brussels, with the bloc launching fresh legal action against the UK.
Once the period of national mourning for the Queen ends in the UK, it is expected that a focus will return to the future of the Protocol.
New elections are due in Northern Ireland unless a new power-sharing administration can be formed before 28th October.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic, who leads the EU’s negotiations over arrangements for Northern Ireland, this week claimed Brexit border checks could yet be reduced.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Mr Sefcovic said the trade border between Great Britain and Northern Ireland would be ‘invisible’ under his proposals – if the UK handed over real-time data on trade.
‘If the data are downloaded into the system, when the goods are put on the ferry from Britain… I believe that we can remotely process them while sailing to Northern Ireland,’ he said.
Mr Sefcovic added that physical checks would only be conducted ‘when there is reasonable suspicion of . . . illegal trade smuggling, illegal drugs or dangerous toys or poisoned food’.
He insisted this would typically be a ‘couple of lorries a day’.
British ministers and Downign Street have not publicly responded to Mr Sefcovic’s comments due to the national mourning period.
But Government officials have dismissed his proposals as ‘nothing new’ and suggested they did not address the ‘key concerns’ with the implementation of the Protocol.
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Irish PM says Queen’s death is chance to ‘reset’ relations between UK and Ireland after Brexit rows