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Arlene Foster hails 'strong, mature' relationship with Enda Kenny

Published 15/11/2016

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny (right) with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Northern Ireland Economy Minister Simon Hamilton at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings in Dublin

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster has denied frosty relations with Taoiseach Enda Kenny over Brexit - and has agreed to ramp up top-level talks over the coming months.

In Mr Kenny's office for the first time, Ms Foster said the pair had a "good strong, mature relationship" which would develop more in the future.

While she did not retreat from her strong pro-Brexit stance, she said the pair spoke about the "special history and geography" of Northern Ireland and that both hoped the European Union would continue to recognise that.

Ms Foster will continue to snub an all-island Brexit forum arranged by Mr Kenny, and which first met earlier this month, but she suggested a compromise had been reached with increased cross-border ministerial meetings.

"As the Taoiseach said, if we need to have more regular meetings of the North South Ministerial Council, then we will have more regular meetings," she said afterwards in Dublin's Government Buildings.

The meeting lasted for around an hour and 20 minutes.

The North South Ministerial Council was set up under the Good Friday Agreement peace deal and generally meets in plenary session just twice year.

It will meet next on Friday in Armagh.

Ms Foster dismissed suggestions of cold relations between her and Mr Kenny, adding that while there would not always be agreement between them, there was common ground to work on.

Asked if they talked about seeking a special EU status for Northern Ireland after Brexit, she said: "We discussed the history and geography of Northern Ireland and the fact that the EU have assisted us in the past in relation to that history and geography and we will be talking about it over the coming months, as to how we can build on that past relationship and what that means for the future.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PA
Taoiseach Enda Kenny (centre) with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Northern Ireland Economy Minister Simon Hamilton at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 15, 2016. See PA story IRISH Brexit. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire
Taoiseach Enda Kenny (centre) with Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster and Northern Ireland Economy Minister Simon Hamilton at Government Buildings in Dublin, where they are to discuss Brexit. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Tuesday November 15, 2016. See PA story IRISH Brexit. Photo credit should read: Brian Lawless/PA Wire

"But the UK as a whole voted to leave the EU, we will leave the EU as a whole but that doesn't take away from the fact that we have a special history and geography here."

On plans for Scotland's First Minster Nicola Sturgeon to address the Irish parliament next week, Ms Foster said she would "definitely consider" doing the same if asked.

Mr Kenny said the pair found a lot of common ground and agreed to open continued lines of communication.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster speaks to the media on her arrival at Government Buildings in Dublin to discuss Brexit with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. PA
Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster speaks to the media on her arrival at Government Buildings in Dublin to discuss Brexit with Taoiseach Enda Kenny. PA

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