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Cross border

Simon Coveney: UK has given assurance that there is no block of Covid-19 Northern Ireland funding

Coveney said that he was told by Northern Ireland Brandon Lewis that “finance from London shouldn’t be a problem”.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS MINISTER Simon Coveney has said that he has been assured by Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis that there is no blockage of Covid-19 funding from the British government to Northern Ireland.

There were 923 new coronavirus cases announced in Northern Ireland yesterday.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, Coveney said that while there is a perspective that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure to release further funding, that is not what he was told during his meeting with the Northern Ireland Secretary in Belfast yesterday.

Coveney said that he was told by Lewis that “finance from London shouldn’t be a problem”. 

“What he is saying is that the British government has already made significant funding available to the Executive specifically for Covid in Northern Ireland and the response there,” Coveney said.

I’d like to speak to some of the senior politicians in Northern Ireland today to establish exactly what is the blockage there, because certainly Brandon Lewis, the Secretary of State, was very clear with me yesterday that funding should not be the blockage.

“If funding is necessary for an effective Covid response in terms of public health response in Northern Ireland then London will look at that seriously.

“If there is a blockage based on a lack of funding from London to Northern Ireland then we need to address that and Brandon Lewis, speaking to me yesterday, was happy to address that.”

Coveney said that there was a need to “act quickly” as there had been “a dramatic spike” infection spread in Northern Ireland, particularly in the Derry-Strabane area, and said that the high number of cases in Donegal was most likely related to this.

We’re not in the business of erecting barriers on the border between North and South – we fought for three years to make sure that doesn’t happen as a consequences of Brexit.

“There may be two jurisdictions on this island with one landmass where populations move and can affect each other and so we have to have a common approach,” the Minister said.

Northern Ireland’s CMO Dr Michael McBride and Dr Tony Holohan will meet today.

On the issue of a NPHET recommendation of moving to Level 5, Simon Coveney said that he heard about it first on RTÉ’s Nine O’Clock News.

He said that whenever anything serious happens in the country, himself and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar speak, as deputy leader and leader of Fine Gael respectively.

“The version of events the Tánaiste has outlined and outlined again in the Dáil yesterday is certainly my experience of what happened,” Coveney said.

When asked whether he meant that nothing was known before, and that this was a bolt from the blue, he replied: “The more we talk about what happened last Sunday, the more we’re distracted away from what we really need to be focusing on.”

- with reporting from PA News

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