Coveney says EU must be 'flexible' to end frustrations over Brexit deal amid NI violence


The Irish foreign minister said efforts to end the unrest “has to start at the top with political leadership”. His remarks came after another night of violence in an areas of Londonderry and Belfast, during which more than 50 police officers have been injured in rioting in recent days. The disruption in the Unionist area of the cities broke out after it emerged that prosecutors would not charge anyone, including 24 Sinn Fein politicians, for attending the funeral in June last year of Bobby Storey, a former IRA member and Sinn Fein politician.

But the recent imposition of a trade barrier in the Irish Sea, meaning checks on some goods being shipped from mainland Britain to Northern Ireland, was also have said to have caused tensions to flare up.

Mr Coveney told RTE: “This needs to stop before somebody is killed or seriously injured.

“These are scenes we haven’t seen in Northern Ireland for a very long time, they are scenes that many people thought were consigned to history and I think there needs to be a collective effort to try and defuse tensions.”

He added: “This is a time of real tension in Northern Ireland, unfortunately, that political leaders and community leaders need to respond to, like they have done in the past, to defuse tensions and come together rather than have a go at each other.”

Police chiefs in the region said the anger over the Sinn Fein funeral and the Brexit deal’s Northern Ireland protocol to prevent a hard border have created a “perfect storm” for “more sinister elements of society” to cause disorder.

To keep the Irish border open, the area effectively remains part of the EU’s single market and some checks are now made on some products arriving from the rest of the UK.

The new customs controls between Britain and Northern Ireland have angered Unionist communities in the region.

Mr Coveney said: “There are a number of things inflaming division and resulting in real polarisation, clearly the protocol that is linked to Brexit is part of that.

“I’m more than aware of that, which is why, for many weeks now, I and others in the Irish government have speaking to the EU Commission to look at ways in which we can use the flexibilities built into the protocol… recognising frustrations that have been exposed.”

He added: “We are more than listening to unionist community in terms of their frustrations.”

MUST READ: Brexit news: Spain erupts at EU for punishing UK

Mr Coveney has recently held talks with Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis and official contacts between their teams are still ongoing.

The Northern Ireland Executive will meet before an emergency session of the Stormont Assembly to discuss the recent unrest.

Scenes include a bus that was hijacked and later set on fire, petrol bombs being hurled by rioters and clashes between loyalists and nationals at a peace line that connects Shankill Road with the Springfield Road in west Belfast.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.