Wednesday 11 December 2019

Government needs to listen to Unionists' legacy concerns, says Tánaiste after meeting relative of Troubles victim

Simon Coveney
Simon Coveney

Áine McMahon

The Government needs to listen to the concerns about Unionists living in Northern Ireland when it comes to legacy issues, Tánaiste Simon Coveney has said.

Mr Coveney met DUP MEP Diane Dodds in Dublin on Thursday to discuss the case of Ian Sproule, who was murdered in Co Tyrone in 1991 aged 23.

Ms Dodds has repeatedly called on the government here to investigate allegations of collusion in connection with the IRA murder of Mr Sproule.

"We had a very good meeting today and it was a very sensitive case that we were discussing," he said.

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"It is a very tragic case. It is a murder and it was an awful act of terrorism 28 years ago where a man was murdered by the IRA and the impact that murder has had on the family involved is clearly very evident 28 years later," he said.

"I met one of the family members today with Diane Dodds. We had a good honest discussion on issues around trust, legacy and how the Irish Government needs to be listening to the Unionist community in Northern Ireland and issues to do with legacy and violence in the past."

Mr Coveney said he hopes it is one of several meetings he will be able to hold with the family.

"This is something both Governments are already working very closely on together, despite the fact there is an election [in the UK] going on. We will continue to do that," he said.

Separately, Mr Coveney said he is hopeful the Stormont impasse can be resolved and the institution can get up and running again.

He said: "I think the focus for the Irish and British Government is on two things; one trying to settle the Brexit issue in a way that everyone can live with and secondly, trying to find a way of working with the parties in Northern Ireland to provide a platform that will allow them to work together in devolved institutions and to get Stormont back up and running again."

Julian Smith Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the launch of the Northern Ireland Conservatives manifesto at the Culloden Hotel near Belfast on Wednesday November 27, 2019. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire
Julian Smith Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the launch of the Northern Ireland Conservatives manifesto at the Culloden Hotel near Belfast on Wednesday November 27, 2019. Photo: Liam McBurney/PA Wire

Fresh talks to revive devolved government in Northern Ireland will start on December 16, UK Secretary of State for Northern Ireland Julian Smith has said.

Mr Smith added that, unless agreement is reached by January 13, fresh Assembly elections will be triggered.

Mr Coveney said: "We have a very narrow window after the British General Election to do that and I think the Secretary of State of Northern Ireland and I are on the exact same page here. We would like to see major progress before the end of the year and before Christmas if that is possible.

"That requires the parties to come forward to make it work and the DUP have made it clear that they want to get back into discussions to get back up and running. Sinn Féin have too. We certainly know the SDLP, the Alliance Party and Ulster Unionist Party want to get back to a functioning Stormont.

"What is most important is the people of Northern Ireland want that too and that is the message all of the parties are getting from the public during this General Election campaign," he added.

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