STABILITY in Northern Ireland and addressing the legacies of the past were top of the agenda as Northern Irish Secretary James Brokenshire met the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan in Dublin.
The Secretary was on a two-day visit to Dublin to hold key meetings to discuss the political and economic challenges facing Northern Ireland and Ireland as Britain prepares to leave the EU.
Mr Brokenshire said his visit to Dublin came at an “important” time for Northern Ireland and spoke of the need to protect the North’s interests, as well as the need to establish a stable Government in Northern Ireland.
“My visit to Dublin comes at an important time, with the UK Government on course to trigger Article 50 by the end of March, which will begin our negotiations to exit the European Union.
“I welcome the opportunity to meet Minister Flanagan to discuss the current period of political uncertainty in Northern Ireland and reinforce the commitment of both the UK and Irish Governments to bring forward the bodies to address the legacy of Northern Ireland’s past, as well as ensuring the establishment of a stable devolved government in a Northern Ireland that works for everyone.”
Speaking after the meeting, Minister Flanagan said he stressed the importance for a “power sharing” Executive to be established.
“I underlined that it is of the utmost importance that the conditions are in place for a power sharing Executive to be established as soon as possible following the Assembly election.
“As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, both Governments have a role to play in supporting the effective operation of the devolved institutions, and in upholding both the letter and the spirit of the Agreement as whole, in the interests of all in Northern Ireland.”
In relation to legacy issues, Minister Flanagan said they must be dealt with in a way that meets the needs of the survivors.
“I discussed with the Secretary of State the imperative of dealing with the range of issues related to the legacy of the Troubles, in a way that meets the needs and expectations of victims and survivors, and of wider society.
“It is these needs that should be the focus of our work and which can best be met through the comprehensive legacy framework provided for under the Stormont House Agreement. I reiterated by determination that this be established at the earliest opportunity.”
Speaking about Brexit and the challenges Northern Ireland will face, Mr Brokenshire said he is “acutely aware” of the need for free movement and trade across the border.
“As Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I am acutely aware that the ability to move and trade freely across the border is an essential part of daily life for people and businesses on both sides of the Border, and the UK Government recognises the importance of finding a practical solution that reflects the unique economic, social and political context of the border.
“We want to see trade and travel continuing to be as frictionless as possible.
“It is vital the Common Travel Area and excellent economic links with Ireland are maintained, and both issues will be significant priorities for the UK in the talks ahead.”
Minister Flanagan said that an “invisible border” will take flexibility by the British Government.
“I reminded the Secretary of State of the particular impact on Northern Ireland of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
“While Prime Minister May’s commitment to work to retain an invisible border on the island is welcome, I emphasised that, if this is to be achieved, significant flexibility will need to be shown by British Government once the EU-UK negotiations begin.”