Belfast Telegraph

Coveney told to 'show some respect' for status of Northern Ireland

By Adrian Rutherford

The Republic's foreign minister has been told to show more respect for the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

It comes after Simon Coveney suggested that ministers in London and Dublin could make decisions on Northern Ireland if Stormont cannot be restored.

But DUP MP Gregory Campbell branded the new Tanaiste's comments "unhelpful" and "clumsy". He said: "For the Republic of Ireland's foreign minister to suggest some role for his government in the internal affairs of Northern Ireland ignores the constitutional reality.

"If Simon Coveney is so clumsy with diplomacy relating to his nearest neighbour, one wonders how he handles diplomatic matters in countries with which he is even less familiar."

During an RTE interview on Sunday, Mr Coveney said the absence of a power-sharing Executive was part of the problem of Brexit. He added: "Then there is the prospect of a whole series of other choices - from another election, to the triggering of Intergovernmental Conferences to make decisions on Northern Ireland.

"That is not where we want to be. That will cause tension. It will be a very frosty environment to make decisions in... so we all have a responsibility, in a practical sense, to find a way forward."

Ulster Unionist leader Robin Swann said Mr Coveney's comments "undermine the basis of the Belfast Agreement".

He said: "There is nowhere in the Belfast Agreement that permits joint authority or joint stewardship. As much as he and others may wish it to be different, it is simply not catered for. There is no joint authority now and there can't be in the future."

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said "joint stewardship ... is not a new idea, nor is it an unreasonable idea".

He said restoring Stormont was the best option, but "if the DUP and Sinn Fein continue to fail to show leadership and deliver an agreement, political decisions will need to be made to protect our people and our public services".

Belfast Telegraph

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