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Coveney says 'we can't alter geography and history' amid increasingly tense Brexit talks

The Tánaiste added that power-sharing needs to be “urgently” restored in Northern Ireland.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Tánaiste Simon Coveney
Image: Leah Farrell/RollingNews.ie

THE TÁNAISTE HAS said Ireland faces “unprecedented challenges” as Brexit negotiations continue.

Addressing an event organised by Columbia University in New York, Simon Coveney said the “creation of the closest possible future connection between the EU and the UK” is in the European Union’s interest and “overwhelmingly in Ireland’s interests”.

‘We cannot alter the basic facts of geography and history. And those facts shape our future in Ireland more than they impact any other country in the European Union.”

Coveney said the outcome of the UK leaving the EU should not “in any way undermine the hard-won gains of the peace process, as exemplified by the Good Friday Agreement”.

In December all sides agreed that the GFA, which officially ended the Troubles in Northern Ireland, must be protected in those negotiations. The British deal with the EU made specific reference to “protecting the operation of the 1998 Agreement”.

In recent days, Irish politicians have had to defend this stance, after a number of British politicians and commentators said it may need to be reworked.

‘We can’t give up’

Speaking about the deadlock in negotiations to restore power-sharing at Stormont, Coveney said: “We urgently need to see the restoration of the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly to harness greater and broader Northern Ireland input into how to make the best of Brexit.

Despite the efforts of both governments in recent months, and especially in recent weeks, it is deeply regrettable that there is at present no power-sharing Executive in place. However, we will not give up – we cannot give up.

He added that Ireland remains “more than ever committed to our membership of the EU”.

Speaking about the EU’s relationship with the US, Coveney said the Union “needs and wants the United States as its major international partner – in foreign and security policy, in free trade and investment, in protecting the environment”.

He said the US and UK have a “very strong” bond but that this “should not be an alternative to, or a threat to, the EU-US relationship”.

Read: Explainer: Why UK Brexiteers have been told to ‘sod off’ away from the Good Friday Agreement

Read: White House visit: Simon Coveney to brief Trump administration on Northern Ireland

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Órla Ryan

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