Wednesday 21 March 2018

Foster accuses Irish government of poaching Northern Irish investors

First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster delivers her keynote speech
First Minister and DUP leader Arlene Foster delivers her keynote speech
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

Northern Ireland first minister Arlene Foster has claimed that “instability” in the Irish government is driving its stance on Brexit.

She hit out at what she called attempts by the Dublin government to “talk down” the North’s economy and “poach” investors.

And she encouraged shoppers from the south “looking for a bargain”  to cross the border.

Ms Foster – whose Democratic Unionist Party campaigned for a ‘Leave’ vote in the Brexit referendum – was speaking at her party’s conference near Belfast.

Fianna Fail TD Brendan Smith already dismissed her remarks saying Ms Foster was “speaking to her political base” and insisting “no Irish government irrespective of who is in office, talks down the Northern Irish economy”.

Ms Foster has ruled out taking part in an all-island forum, proposed by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, that’s designed to respond to the challenges presented by Brexit.

It is to meet for the first time next week but in recent days Ms Foster outlined why she won’t be going.

"To be a lone voice amongst a whole lot of remoaners? No thank you - I have better things to do with my time," she said.

Speaking today Mr Foster said relations with the government in Dublin are as good as they ever have been.

But she attacked the Irish government’s reaction to the Brexit vote.

"The reality is that political instability in Dublin, and fears for their own future, are driving their decision-making at present as much as any concern about Northern Ireland.

"And while they seek to take the views of people of Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit at home, their representatives are sent out around the world to talk down our economy and to attempt to poach our investors.

"It is clear, conference, that the one place that a hard border does exist is in the mind of the Irish Government.

"Well, I don't believe in a hard border and am happy to welcome shoppers looking for a bargain from across the border any time they want to come,” she added.

A majority of people in the North voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the EU.

Ms Foster said she is “proud” of the role her party played in campaigning for a ‘Leave’ vote.

And she echoed remarks by British prime minister Theresa May saying: “Brexit means Brexit. The whole of the United Kingdom leaves the EU.”

This evening, Brendan Smith, the chairman of the Oirechtas Foreign Affairs Committee said Ms Foster was “incorrect” to suggest that the “Irish Government talks down the Northern Irish economy, and seeks to poach investors away”.

He said that he would hope that Ms Foster would join efforts to maximise foreign investment on the whole island and especially in the border region.

“A single all-Ireland industrial promotion agency would have huge benefits for the entire island,” he said.

“We need to build further to realise the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement.

“The First Minister can show leadership on this matter, and work with the Irish Government to make this a reality. I hope she takes the opportunity,” Mr Smith said.

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