By David Young, PA
Stormont leaders must grasp the opportunity to restore devolution if a deal emerges from EU/UK talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol, the Tánaiste has said.
Micheál Martin said all the main parties, including the DUP, wanted to maintain one of the protocol’s key elements – Northern Ireland’s access to the EU single market.
To date, the EU has made clear that single market access for Northern Ireland would depend on the region following the bloc’s rules on trade.
Mr Martin said the EU, and UK and Irish governments, were “very aware” of unionist concerns about the Irish Sea trading arrangements and stressed it would be a challenge to find an agreed solution between London and Brussels.
“I think the British government have clear challenges, the EU have challenges in terms of access to the single market, and therefore I don’t understate the challenges that both are facing,” he told RTE Radio One.
“So, we shouldn’t mistake the fact that there’s a process in place for certainty that an outcome will emerge. I think it’s going to be very challenging.”
Commenting on his recent engagements with the main parties in Stormont, Mr Martin added: “I’ve spoken to the DUP leader Jeffrey Donaldson, I’ve spoken to all leaders in Northern Ireland, they all want the restoration of the Executive and the Assembly, it should be restored.
“I think an opportunity could arise here. If it arises in terms of an outcome to the protocol issues, then it should be grasped by all parties in Northern Ireland, including unionism.”
He added: “All are agreed on one thing, (along) with industry in Northern Ireland, that access to the European single market should be maintained, because it’s beneficial to the economy of Northern Ireland and to jobs there, as well then as access to the GB market.”
Mr Martin said he wanted to see an end to the political “vacuum” in Northern Ireland.
“The Executive should be back, the people of Northern Ireland deserve no less than to have the people that they elected working on their behalf in the Assembly and in the Executive.”