Belfast Telegraph

Taoiseach can't run a coach and horses through Agreement

By Arlene Foster MLA

On Wednesday the Prime Minister, responding to a question from my colleague Nigel Dodds, gave a very clear commitment that in the absence of devolution the governing of Northern Ireland would be a matter for the UK Government alone.

I welcomed the clear statement and polite rebuke for the Irish Government.

The Prime Minister made that statement against the backdrop of repeated irresponsible or else clumsy comments by Irish government ministers.

The suggestion that the Republic of Ireland government would have a decision-making role concerning any internal affairs of Northern Ireland flies in the face of the constitutional reality.

Indeed, the Taoiseach often reminds others about their commitments and responsibilities under the Belfast Agreement, yet by seeking to meddle in Northern Ireland's affairs, he runs a coach and horses through the Belfast Agreement.

I trust the Taoiseach and his government's Foreign Minister will take the Christmas break to reflect on how they repair the damage caused by their careless statements. It seems they lack an understanding of unionists.

By repeatedly making statements about joint authority and a united Ireland, both ministers show a naivety and at the same time undermine years of earnest work by Enda Kenny and Charlie Flanagan to build a meaningful relationship with Northern Ireland unionists.

Northern Ireland should have a good relationship with the Republic of Ireland. It makes sense. I have been to the fore in encouraging north-south co-operation on matters of mutual concern.

In areas such as health and roads, I have worked with the Varadkar administration. But the recent Irish statements are different. They are selfish, utterly unbalanced and deeply unhelpful.

My party will be meeting with the Irish government in the new year. There will be straight talking. I'm not in the business of having arguments for the sake of it.

This chapter in our relationship is unneeded and unnecessary. I trust that Messrs Varadkar and Coveney are not playing games with the Northern Ireland political process as part of their electoral strategy.

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