Written answers

Tuesday, 28 July 2020

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Northern Ireland

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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61. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the number of times he has visited Northern Ireland to date in 2020; the purpose of each visit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17314/20]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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As part of the Government’s commitment to supporting the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement and the importance of maintaining strong relationships, I have made 12 visits to Northern Ireland this year. Where this was not possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic, I have remained in regular contact with the First Minister, Deputy First Minister, other members of the Executive, and political leaders.

Most recently,  I travelled to Belfast last Tuesday where I met with the First Minister and Deputy First Minister, as well as leaders of the political parties. We had constructive discussions on a range of issues including the all-island response to Covid-19, implementation of the New Decade, New Approach Agreement and issues relating to Brexit. I also met with representatives from the Northern Ireland Business Brexit Working Group.

I travelled to Armagh on 14 March for a meeting between Government Ministers and members of the NI Executive on public health challenges posed by Covid-19, North and South.

In February, I met with Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis in Belfast, shortly after his appointment. I have been in regular contact with Secretary of State Lewis in the intervening period, both bilaterally and in coordination calls on the response to Covid-19.

I attended the funeral of Seamus Mallon in late January to pay my respects to one of the architects of Northern Ireland’s peace process.

I also spent a number of days in Northern Ireland in early January as part of efforts to restore the power sharing institutions. As co-guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement, the Government, working with the British Government, spared no effort in supporting and facilitating the talks, which culminated in the New Decade New Approach agreement. On 9 January, then Secretary of State Julian Smith and I published the text of an agreement to restore devolved government in Northern Ireland. This agreement was accepted by the five main political parties and I returned to Northern Ireland alongside the then Taoiseach on 13 January to meet with the British Prime Minister, Secretary of State and First and Deputy First Ministers to reaffirm our commitments to the institutions of the Good Friday Agreement.

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