Wednesday 29 March 2017

Taoiseach forced to scrap plans for North-South 'All-Ireland forum' to deal with Brexit

Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at the North South Ministerial Council Meeting at Dublin Castle this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
Taoiseach Enda Kenny speaks to Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster at the North South Ministerial Council Meeting at Dublin Castle this morning. Photo: Tony Gavin
John Downing

John Downing

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has been obliged to scrap plans for a North-South “All Ireland Forum” to deal with the Brexit fallout for the entire island of Ireland.

The plan was heavily trailed by two government ministers on radio and television over the weekend. And a similar proposal was also put forward by Sinn Fein.

But after a meeting of the North-South Ministerial Council in Dublin Castle today, Northern Ireland First Minister and leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), Arlene Foster, bluntly made her party’s opposition clear.

“It was not discussed with me,” Ms Foster frankly told reporters.

The DUP leader, who backed a Leave vote in the June 23 referendum, said there were already enough structures and links between the Dublin and Belfast administrations to ensure a coordinated, cross-border Brexit response.

She added that ministers could always “lift the phone” to discuss whatever cross-border issues arose.

And Ms Foster also stressed that it was the London government’s job to negotiate on behalf of Northern Ireland as part of the UK process to quit the EU.

The Taoiseach failed to reply to questions about whether he had erred by publicising the Forum idea before first discussing it with the North’s First Minister. He insisted that the idea was not to set up a statutory body which would have continuous existence.

“We had a very constructive meeting and we agreed 10 areas of common interest upon which we will cooperate,” the Taoiseach said.

Sinn Fein Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he believed the Forum was a good idea and many people in business in the North would have liked to contribute to it. But he insisted that “nothing was lost” and the two jurisdictions would continue to cooperate.

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