Minister expresses 'deep concern' at claims Dublin is 'trying to poach investment, undermine economy in North' in wake of Brexit
FOREIGN Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan expressed "deep concern" at claims Dublin was trying to poach investment and undermine the economy of Northern Ireland following the UK's Brexit vote.
Mr Flanagan, speaking after a bilateral meeting in Tipperary with US Secretary of State John Kerry, confirmed he was so concerned over the remarks by Northern Ireland First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster that he personally contacted a DUP minister.
Mr Kerry warned that, in the context of the UK's imminent Brexit or departure from the EU, that nothing be done to undermine the peace process in Northern Ireland.
"People need to be really careful with downstream consequences that one choice can have an impact on other aspects of whatever happens with the border," Mr Kerry said.
"It is really critical that it is done very thoughtfully and very sensitively so that it doesn't impact [on the island economy]. I'm not saying it will but we need to make sure that it doesn't."
The US official admitted that Brexit poses "major challenges" for everyone involved.
However, Mr Flanagan took issue with remarks from Ms Foster at the DUP annual conference.
She suggested that the Republic was trying to poach post-Brexit business from Northern Ireland - and she blamed this on "fear and political instability."
Mr Flanagan expressed consternation at the remarks.
"In relation to the comments from Northern Ireland's First Minister (Arlene Foster) I was very surprised at these remarks, I was very concerned at these remarks and very concerned at the claim that representatives of the Irish Government were allegedly talking down the Northern Ireland economy," he said.
"I am very concerned at allegations that representatives of the Irish Government were in any way poaching business or investors."
"I spoke last evening to the (NI) Minister for Economy, Simon Hamilton, and I expressed my concern."
"He and I agreed that it is important we work together which we will do."
Mr Flanagan said it was imperative that everyone on the island continue to co-operate and work together on the critical challenges ahead.
"I think it is important in this unique relationship for the people on this island...that we work together in order to ensure economic and social prosperity for all the people on this island."
"That is the priority of my Government."
He acknowledged that Brexit has underlined the need for even greater co-operation.
"I am satisfied in the context of my discussions with members of the U.K. Government, with leaders in Northern Ireland and from meetings I have had with all 27 of my EU counterparts that the issue of the unique status of the island of Ireland is acknowledged and appreciated."
"So it is important therefore in the context of the negotiations which will commence next spring that it is acknowledged with particular reference to the issue of the current invisible border between Northern Ireland and Ireland."
"In the last few days I have been in Derry, Newry and Armagh speaking to business leaders regarding the challenges - it is an enormous challenge."
Mr Flanagan was speaking as Mr Kerry was presented with the Tipperary Peace Prize at a gala ceremony in the Glen of Aherlow.