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Irish Independent
Irish Independent
By Rebecca Black, PA

Taoiseach urged to ‘take a leaf from Micheal Martin’s book’

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has been urged to “take a leaf” out of his predecessor Micheal Martin’s book, and reach out to unionists.

Mr Varadkar became Irish premier again at the weekend under the terms of a coalition deal with Mr Martin’s Fianna Fail party.

Mr Martin has become the Tanaiste and Minister for Foreign Affair, taking over the latter role from Mr Varadkar’s Fine Gael party colleague Simon Coveney.

Mr Varadkar is expected to make a visit to Northern Ireland in the near future.

With unionists continuing to voice concerns at the Northern Ireland Protocol, DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urged Mr Varadkar to understand those concerns.

“As neighbours we want to have a cordial and respectful relationship with the Government of the Republic of Ireland,” he said.

“The imposition of the NI Protocol upon Northern Ireland, without unionist support but with the support of Dublin, was a backward step for North-South relations.

“During his tenure as Taoiseach Micheal Martin sought to understand why unionism was wholly opposed to the NI Protocol.

“I encourage Leo Varadkar to follow Micheal Martin’s example in managing North-South relationships.

“Whilst many unionists will struggle to forget the new Taoiseach waving news reports from the 1970s of a bombed border customs post which gave the threat of violence a seat at the EU negotiating table and demoted the power of democracy and politics, we are prepared to work with him if he is willing to address unionist concerns.”

Devolved government in Northern Ireland has been in flux since February when the DUP withdrew its first minister from the ministerial executive in protest at the protocol.

Talks between the UK and EU to resolve the impasse over the contentious trading arrangements are continuing with both sides continuing to insist a deal is possible.

Sir Jeffrey reiterated his position that his party will not re-enter the Stormont Executive until unionist concerns over the protocol are addressed.

“For those who have forgotten, political progress in NI was hard won and is built on the support of unionists and nationalists,” he said.

“Not one unionist MLA supports the protocol. The idea that one section of our people will dominate the other and ignore the concerns of unionists will never produce durable or balanced outcomes.

“There will be no solid basis for an Executive and Assembly until the Protocol is replaced with arrangements that restore NI’s place in the UK internal market and our constitutional arrangements are respected.”

In a speech at the weekend Mr Varadkar noted that 2023 will mark the 25th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, which he described as “an historic agreement that brought peace to our island”.

“In recent years, various things, some foreseen, some not, have weakened relationships crucial to the maintenance and strengthening of that peace,” he said.

“The efforts of the Tanaiste as Minister for Foreign Affairs will be crucial to this work, and it is something that I will also share responsibility for in the weeks and months ahead.

“We must work together to re-establish the Good Friday Agreement institutions in the north.

“We must set aside our differences, forgive past mistakes on all sides, and seek a new beginning in a new spirit of friendship and understanding.”

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