Dáil debates

Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Ceisteanna - Questions

Taoiseach's Meetings and Engagements

1:55 pm

Photo of Micheál MartinMicheál Martin (Taoiseach, Department of An Taoiseach; Cork South Central, Fianna Fail) | Oireachtas source

I spoke with deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, on 2 March following the publication of the Northern Ireland Executive's pathway out of restrictions document, which maps out a five-level approach to easing out of lockdown. We agreed on the need for a cautious approach to the easing out of lockdown to avoid any reversal of direction. We also discussed recent developments on the Northern Ireland protocol and concerns about rising tensions around it. I stressed the need to de-escalate tensions and the hope that dialogue between the United Kingdom and the European Union would reach agreed outcomes on implementation challenges.

I previously spoke by phone with First Minister, Arlene Foster, and the deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill, on 25 January. We discussed the latest situation on Covid-19 at that time and the measures being taken in response, including in relation to travel. We discussed the similarity of approach across many of the actions we are each taking in response to Covid-19. We also discussed the issue of new variants of the virus and the importance of genome sequencing in detecting their presence.

I also met by videoconference with the First Minister and the deputy First Minister on Wednesday, 13 January, when we also discussed the latest developments on Covid-19. There was also had a very useful discussion on Covid- 19 between the Government and the Northern Ireland Executive at the North-South Ministerial Council plenary meeting on 18 December, which was hosted by the First Minister and deputy First Minister.

In addition, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Simon Coveney, and the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Brandon Lewis, jointly chair Quad meetings which discuss the ongoing response to Covid- 19 and are also attended by the First Minister, Arlene Foster, and deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill. There is also regular contact between the Minister for Health, Deputy Stephen Donnelly, and his Northern Ireland counterpart Minister of Health, Robin Swann, and between the chief medical officers North and South. There is also regular engagement at official level on Covid more generally, including through a series of meetings of officials from the Irish Government, the UK Government and the Northern Ireland Executive, which are co-ordinated and jointly chaired by my Department and the Cabinet Office.

As part of my St. Patrick's Day programme, I was pleased to contribute to the virtual relaunch of the Ireland-Northern Ireland-National Cancer Institute Cancer Consortium, which also included contributions from the First Minister, Arlene Foster, and deputy First Minister, Michelle O'Neill. This is an important initiative which will bring together the appropriate bodies North and South, and in the United States, to help in tackling cancer.

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