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Economy minister Dodds' presence at meeting with Irish Government minister welcomed by Sinn Fein


The Finance Minister Conor Murphy

The Finance Minister Conor Murphy

The Finance Minister Conor Murphy

The DUP Stormont Economy Minister Diane Dodds has attended a meeting with an Irish Government minister.

The North South Trade and Business Development meeting started at 2pm on Tuesday, where it is understood that no items involving the Northern Ireland Protocol were to be discussed.

It comes after the DUP were accused last week of boycotting all north/south meetings due to their anger at the post-Brexit trading arrangements.

Unionists and loyalists oppose the Protocol, claiming additional checks on goods places a barrier between Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.

Other Executive parties held a series of meetings on Monday to discuss two DUP no-shows at sectoral meetings of the North South Ministerial Council in recent weeks.

Sinn Fein president Mary-Lou McDonald said: "Political progress, stability and inclusion relies on all of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement working, and working well.

"The north-south piece is absolutely essential and that means that unionists of all hues have to participate in those meetings."

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One accompanying minister from the opposing political view must attend North South Ministerial Council meetings to allow them to proceed.

TUV leader Jim Allister accused the DUP of "buckling".

"Why is a unionist facilitating a meeting to discuss trade and business development on a north-south level when our east-west links in those areas have been trashed by the Protocol?" he said.

DUP leader Arlene Foster previously said it is "simply not the case" that her party is boycotting north-south political meetings.

She said no ministers from her party had been available to attend recent sectoral meetings on transport and on languages due to timing issues, and a lack of agreement on the agendas.

In February, the DUP warned that north-south relationships will be "impacted" as part of its political campaign to oppose the Northern Ireland Protocol, which governs post-Brexit trading arrangements on the Irish Sea.

Speaking after the meeting, Sinn Fein Finance Minister Conor Murphy welcomed Mrs Dodds' presence at the meeting.

"We discussed important matters of mutual interest on all-island trade and business development," he said.

"Since the Executive was restored there have now been two plenary meetings of the Executive and Irish Government, involving all ministers across the island."

He said that given the challenges of both Brexit and Covid "it is paramount that there is consultation, co-operation and joint action between the two governments, the Executive and all ministers".

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