Monday 22 January 2018

Government 'concerned' about impact of UK snap election on Northern Ireland - Charlie Flanagan

The Minster for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Mr. Charlie Flanagan. Picture credit; Damien Eagers
The Minster for Foreign Affairs & Trade, Mr. Charlie Flanagan. Picture credit; Damien Eagers

Kevin Doyle Group Political Editor

FOREIGN Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan is “concerned” about the impact the snap Westminster elections will have on talks to form a Northern Ireland executive.

Stormont has been without a power-sharing government since March 2 as the DUP and Sinn Féin struggled to reach a deal to re-establish the administration.

Speculation is now mounting that voters in Northern Ireland could face a second round of Assembly election to coincide with the UK vote on June 8.

However, Mr Flanagan said the Irish Government will be pushing to avoid such a scenario.

He discussed the situation with the Secretary of State to Northern Ireland James Brokenshire today.

"The Secretary of State told me that his intention, announced last week, remains unchanged – namely, to bring forward legislation at Westminster in the coming days which will include a provision to allow a Northern Ireland Executive to be formed in early May," Mr Flanagan said.

"While this will legislatively facilitate the formation of an Executive, I am conscious of the political reality that all of the parties involved in the talks will now be competing in a General Election and mind-sets will inevitably shift to campaign mode.

"Nevertheless, it is the firm hope of the Irish Government that the talks’ process can continue and conclude successfully in the coming days."

Mr Flanagan said the interest of the people of Northern Ireland would be best served by avoiding a second election.

"That will be my message in my contacts with the party leaders in Northern Ireland in the coming days and when I travel to Belfast for further discussions on Thursday," he said.

Mr Flanagan added that Theresa May’s decision to call a Westminster election does not altar the Irish approach to the forthcoming Brexit negotiations.

"This announcement does not change the Government’s commitment to ensuring the best possible outcome for Ireland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations where we will negotiate from a position of strength as one of the EU 27," he said.

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