Dáil debates

Thursday, 19 May 2022

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions


12:20 pm

Photo of Leo VaradkarLeo Varadkar (Dublin West, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I do not know whether the Secretary of State, Liz Truss, made those remarks or not. It is obviously for her to confirm or deny them. However we all know that Brexit, even with the deal that we have had, has affected people. It has affected businesses adversely with many consequences, although I think without the deal we have it would have been much worse. In respect of legacy, the Irish Government is very concerned about the proposals that have been put forward by the British Government in regard to legacy, amnesty and the non-prosecution of people who were involved in killing people in Northern Ireland, whether it was in terrorist offences or people from the security services. We had the Stormont House Agreement. We think that agreement should be honoured in regard to legacy. We are very much of the view that whatever is done in regard to legacy in Northern Ireland, should be done with the support of the parties in Northern Ireland and crucially should involve consultation with and the agreement of the families and victims groups. This is because many people are still grieving years and decades later because of what was done to them by paramilitaries and security forces. It is they who should be at the centre of this.

In regard to the actions that we are taking, the Government is acting on two tracks. As part of the European Union we are trying to negotiate with the United Kingdom in regard to the protocol, trying to come up with solutions that maintain the protocol in place and the benefits that arise from it, but in some way help to assuage and ease the concerns that unionists and some business people in Northern Ireland have. We are working on that track in terms of how to modify and improve the protocol and trying to respond to some of the concerns that have been raised.

In particular, led by the Minister, Deputy Coveney, we are trying to engage with the British Government and the parties in Northern Ireland with a view to forming an Executive. Getting the Assembly up and running is very important and does not require an Executive to be formed. That should happen. An Executive should happen also. I was involved for three years in negotiations around Brexit. What was missing was a functioning Northern Ireland Executive, a First Minister and a deputy First Minister who could speak on behalf of Northern Ireland. What we have now is five or more parties, each with its leader, each just speaking for his or her party or maybe for one community or part of one community. As nobody in Northern Ireland has the authority to speak on behalf of Northern Ireland, it is important that we have an Executive in place in order that the Executive, First Minister and deputy First Minister can be involved and can be across any changes that might happen to the protocol. That is currently absent. That is really regrettable. The decision not to participate in the Executive is entirely down to one party.


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