'Cautious optimism' for fresh talks on Northern Ireland Protocol, Coveney says

ireland
'Cautious Optimism' For Fresh Talks On Northern Ireland Protocol, Coveney Says 'Cautious Optimism' For Fresh Talks On Northern Ireland Protocol, Coveney Says
The Minister for Foreign Affairs said fresh talks were necessary to avoid new elections in the North. Photo: PA
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Vivienne Clarke

Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has expressed “cautious optimism” about fresh talks on the Northern Ireland Protocol, which he expects to resume in the coming weeks.

A “new, more real round of dialogue” to resolve differences would commence in the weeks after Queen Elizabeth’s funeral, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

Such talks were necessary to repair the damage and to avoid the risk of new elections in the North if an agreement is not reached.

Mr Coveney said he was cautiously optimistic that there would be “an honest effort” to settle some of the issues that have been outstanding for too long. This would require compromise from both sides, he added.

“There is a landing zone. I hope the UK is up for that,” he said.

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On the prospect of energy credits or price caps in the forthcoming budget, Mr Coveney pointed out that the Fiscal Advisory Council had recommended that caps were avoided as it was unknown what they could eventually cost.

But nothing was being ruled out, he said. Energy credits will be part of the solution.

Mass grave in Ukraine

Mr Coveney, who has just returned from Ukraine, said the revelations of a mass grave in the Ukrainian city of Izium were a reminder to the international community about the need to ensure that international law applied to Russia and that it was held to account.

“What president Zelenskiy said last night, and I think we will see a lot more evidence today, is a reminder of why Ireland and so many other countries have taken such an interest and involvement in Russian aggression in Ukraine,” he said.

“I was in Bucha, I saw the mass graves myself. We are seeing, unfortunately, that Bucha was not an isolated incident.”

Russia needed to be held to account, he said.

When asked if he will vacate his position as Minister for Foreign Affairs during the Cabinet reshuffle later this year, Mr Coveney said “I will have no choice, will I?”

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