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Call issued for talks on Lough Foyle ownership

By Lesley-Anne McKeown

Published 19/11/2016

Resolution: Charlie Flanagan
Resolution: Charlie Flanagan

The British and Irish Governments must work together to resolve a long-running dispute over Lough Foyle, Ireland's Foreign Affairs Minister has said.

Claims over the vast estuary between Co Londonderry and Co Donegal have been made since partition.

After the Good Friday Agreement the cross-border Loughs Agency was handed responsibility for the waters, a key strategic naval base during the Second World War.

But in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the European Union, Northern Ireland Secretary of State James Brokenshire has reasserted London's claim over it.

However, addressing the contentious issue after a meeting of the North South Ministerial Committee in Armagh, Charlie Flanagan said: "I don't accept the claims that the whole of Lough Foyle is under the jurisdiction of the UK Government. However, rather than dwell on the negatives, I think it is important that we look forward and see how best this issue might be resolved."

He added that officials from his department had been in contact with civil servants from the Secretary of State's office in a bid to thrash out a resolution.

"I believe it is important that we work towards solutions and both myself and my department are committed to reaching a successful conclusion on this outstanding issue which has been the subject of disagreement for many decades."

Meanwhile, First Minister Arlene Foster said a barrier on the seas would contradict the efforts to avoid a hard border on land.

"Obviously, if there's no hard border going to be on land we don't really want to see a hard border on Lough Foyle either.

"There has been a dispute over Lough Foyle and it is important that we find a solution that everyone can agree on," she said.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness added: "Here, here Arlene. No hard border on the land; no border on the sea. This has been a debating point which hopefully can be resolved by some form of negotiation between the Irish Government and the British Government."

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