Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said he regrets comments by a senior member of the DUP that the Government’s approach to Brexit has fractured relationships with unionists in Northern Ireland.
Emma Little-Pengelle, the MP for South Belfast, made the remark last week in response to a tweet by the minister to mark the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.
In the tweet, he described the agreement as “a new beginning, hope for the future.”
He added: “Despite challenges we face today and the pessimism of some, the GFA remains the template to allow Ireland, North and South, to live together peacefully.”
In a reply, the DUP MP was highly critical of the Government.
“Sad that the behaviour of the Irish government has so fundamentally fractured the carefully built relationships with unionists – the destruction of which will be so very hard to heal,” she said.
“I have never known a time where it has been so broken. A sad testimony to the last 21 years.”
The Tániaste was asked about those remarks during a visit to Downpatrick in Co Down this morning to launch a new book on St Patrick.
Asked if he was concerned, he replied: “Of course I’m concerned by those comments, I hope that’s not true.”
The minister said he regularly speaks to unionists as well as politicians from all of Northern Ireland’s political parties.
Mr Coveney said his approach to Brexit has always been to try to negotiate a position that is good for the island of Ireland as a whole, “for nationalists, for unionists, for relationships north and south and east west.”
The Tánaiste said the government had shown it was trying to take on board concerns that everybody has, north or south of the border.
He added: “I regret that she felt the need, I think she tweeted it rather than said it.
“I did see that and its up to all of us as mature politicians to talk to each other, to try to take on board each other’s concerns and fears because ultimately we need to work this out so that we can live together on this island as neighbours and hopefully as friends in a way that leaves the very divisive and difficult past behind.”
The minister was also asked about a statement he made yesterday that the Government will pay for European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) for people living in Northern Ireland after Brexit, if necessary.
He said this was a contingency plan that would only be needed in the event of a no deal Brexit.
The Tánaiste said everyone in Northern Ireland would benefit, regardless of whether they hold a British or Irish passport.
With many thanks to: RTE News for the original story