Micheal Martin: ‘Meat on bone’ needed to resolve Northern Ireland Protocol

The Irish Government wants “meat on the bone” to resolve the Northern Ireland Protocol issues, the country’s premier has said.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said the mood music is improving but it needed to be harnessed to translate into a resolution to the impasse.

The Fianna Fail leader added that he and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak agreed there is a “window of opportunity” to address the protocol concerns.

Mr Martin made the remarks after a meeting with Mr Sunak at the British-Irish Council summit in Blackpool on Thursday.

“From the Government-to-Government perspective we want to see meat on the bone,” Mr Martin said.

“The mood music is improving, we now need to translate that into a resolution, a negotiated resolution between the United Kingdom and the European Union.”

He added: “There is now a very good window of opportunity here to get this issue resolved.

“I think all of us agreed to remain focused on this issue with the European Union to have a negotiated resolution of the issues.

“It’s very clear to me that the Prime Minister desires a negotiated resolution.”

He added: “That, in turn, would facilitate stability in terms of the political situation in Northern Ireland, the restoration of the Executive and the Assembly.”

Mr Martin described Mr Sunak’s decision to attend the summit as “significant”, adding that his attendance had been “well received”.

It is rare for a British prime minister to attend British-Irish Council summits, with Mr Sunak the first PM since Gordon Brown in 2007 to go.

“He took the earliest opportunity to engage with me and we appreciate that,” the Taoiseach said.

“I think it also gives strength to the British-Irish Council which is a key part of the Good Friday Agreement.”

Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald
Sinn Fein leader Mary Lou McDonald (Damien Storan/PA Wire)

Sinn Fein president Mary Lou McDonald said more than a change of mood music is needed to restore powersharing.

She called for an intensification of the UK-EU talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol as she welcomed Mr Sunak’s attendance at the summit.

“We need more than a change of mood music,” Ms McDonald said.

“We need clarity and certainty about how the British intend to use the next number of weeks to ensure we will start 2023 with the Assembly and Executive in place.

“There is growing frustration that six months on from the election and in the midst of a cost-of-living crisis, the DUP are continuing to block the institutions from being established.

“We are ready to form the Executive, as are the other parties, and the indecision and U-turns from the British Government are not helpful in an already challenging situation.

“We need to see an intensification of the talks with the EU and we need an end to unilateral actions, including the halting of their Protocol Bill. The next number of weeks are critical.”