Tuesday 18 June 2019

Foster in U-turn on 'snub' of Coveney in Belfast

Common ground: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Common ground: Tánaiste Simon Coveney. Photo: Justin Farrelly
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

DUP leader Arlene Foster has met with Tánaiste Simon Coveney in a U-turn of an apparent snub of an invitation by the Tánaiste to talks during his visit to Belfast.

Mr Coveney was in Northern Ireland where he delivered a speech at Queen's University to business leaders.

Last night he held talks with political leaders including Ms Foster, despite previously being told a meeting couldn't be arranged with the leader of the North's largest Unionist party.

Relations between the Irish Government and the DUP have been frosty amid differing stances on Brexit.

The DUP is vehemently opposed to the so-called backstop to avoid a hard Border in British Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal amid fears it could threaten Northern Ireland's position in the UK.

The Irish Government has insisted this is not the purpose of the backstop and Mr Coveney last night said there are no "ulterior motives" apart from trying "to protect the status quo on this island".

In the end Mr Coveney met with a DUP delegation that included Ms Foster, Nigel Dodds, Jeffrey Donaldson and others.

Mr Coveney said afterwards it was a "robust and open" discussion. He said he outlined why the Irish Government supports Mrs May's Brexit deal and believes it's good for Northern Ireland and the peace process.

However, he added that he didn't think anyone would have expected the talks to result in agreement on the backstop between the DUP and the Irish Government.

He said there was common ground on the need to restore the Northern Ireland institutions.

Shortly afterwards the DUP released a statement from Ms Foster.

She said the DUP has had "useful discussions" with the Irish Government in the past, adding: "I'm happy to meet with the Tánaiste later today in Belfast."

The DUP did not respond when asked why the initial invitation was declined.

Irish Independent

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