Belfast Telegraph

It's not meddling: Simon Coveney rejects Irish Government could break Good Friday Agreement

By Jonathan Bell

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has denied his government's involvement in the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIC) was "meddling" in Northern Ireland affairs.

He was speaking after criticism from Lord Trimble who said the meeting could breach the Good Friday Agreement's principals on Dublin's involvement in Northern Ireland matters.

"It's not meddling for two governments who are co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement to ensure that agreement works," Mr Coveney told the BBC

"And that is what we are trying to do here.

"Without functioning devolved government in Northern Ireland it is very hard for the structures of the Belfast agreement to function."

The BIIC meets on Wednesday for the first time since 2007.

Mr Coveney will attend the event in London alongside the Irish Justice Minister and former foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan with the British Government represented by Secretary of State Karen Bradley and Cabinet Office minister David Lidington - the Prime Minister's defacto deputy.

Former first minister Lord Trimble and architect of the Good Friday Agreement said the meeting is "reaching the point of breaking" the principle set out in the 1998 peace accord that the Irish Government should have no role whatsoever in the internal politics of the UK.

He told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it is unacceptable for Irish ministers to be involved in discussions on the restoration of Stormont.

"There has been pressure from Dublin to try to change the character of the inter-governmental conference in a way that would not be acceptable to unionists and probably not acceptable to the British Government either," he said.

"I don't regard this as a helpful situation. It's likely to make matters worse."

Power sharing in Northern Ireland collapsed over 18 months.

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