By Gráinne Ní Aodha, PA
Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin has said an EU-UK deal on the Northern Ireland Protocol represents a “genuine” attempt to address key unionist concerns.
The Tánaiste said the new EU-UK deal ensures that Northern Ireland “benefits by having unique access to both the EU single market and the UK’s internal market”.
“I heard first-hand the concerns of many unionists,” he said in a statement after the Windsor Framework deal.
“I believe they will see in this a genuine response to their genuine concerns.
“This new framework will, for example, ensure that the same food will be available on supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK.
“Medicines will also be available to people in Northern Ireland at the same time and under the same conditions as the rest of the UK.”
Political parties in Northern Ireland said they would assess the text underpinning the agreement.
The DUP said it would engage with the British government to “seek further clarification, reworking or change as required”, while Sinn Féin is due to meet on Monday night to discuss what has been agreed.
Sinn Féin president Mary Lou McDonald listed the Good Friday Agreement, no hardening of the border on the island of Ireland and continued access to the EU market as its priorities. DUP leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson said he would compare the deal against the party’s seven tests.
Mr Martin urged the focus to turn to restoring Northern Ireland’s powersharing institutions, and that the deal poses an opportunity to “reset” British-Irish relations.
“I appreciate that some time may be needed to consider the detail of the deal, but I would urge political leaders in Northern Ireland to act quickly, to put in place institutions that can respond directly to the needs of the people of Northern Ireland,” he said.
“People in Northern Ireland have been clear that they wish to see an executive formed.”
Earlier on Monday, Mr Martin said: “I think the resolution of these issues will give an opportunity to really reset the British-Irish relationship into the future.
“So it’s very, very important for us that the EU-UK relationship is normalised and – to use (EC) President (Ursula) von der Leyen’s words – that the UK is seen as a partner and a friend, and not a source of ongoing friction between the EU and the United Kingdom.”