Tuesday, 10 May 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
I thank the Deputy for his question.
As part of the Government’s commitment to supporting the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and maintaining strong relationships, I remain in regular contact with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and with the parties. I met virtually with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on 5 May, the day of the Assembly elections, to discuss a number of issues in that important context. Following the results of the elections in Northern Ireland, I spoke with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland on Saturday to discuss the outcomes of the elections and the need for both Governments to work in support of the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement. We continue to remain in close contact.
The Secretary of State and I also met in person at the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference on 23 March, where a number of issues relating to Northern Ireland were discussed, including political stability, security co-operation, legacy, and rights and citizenship matters. The British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference is an important institution of the Good Friday Agreement, bringing together the British and Irish Governments under strand three of the Good Friday Agreement to promote bilateral co-operation on matters of mutual interest within the competence of both Governments.
I take this opportunity to say that, in many ways, one of the most concerning developments in the last number of days has been the signal of intent from the British Government in the context of resolving the outstanding issues on the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol. The British Prime Minister and the British Government have signalled that they intend to break international law and to introduce legislation of their own to set aside elements of the protocol. That is a complete breach of faith. It will undermine partnership, which is essential for trying to resolve these issues. It is also undemocratic, in my view. Some 53 of the 90 MLAs who were elected in the elections support the protocol and if they were to vote in the morning on the retention of the protocol, they would vote "Yes". Of course, there are issues to be resolved, and there is a large unionist community that is very concerned about the implications of the protocol and its implementation, but the way to resolve those issues is through partnership, not illegal unilateral action.