Simon Coveney concerned Boris Johnson could use Northern Ireland issues to stay in power


Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said he is concerned that division in the UK Conservative Party could negatively impact Ireland if Boris Johnson uses Northern Ireland to stay in power.

ast evening Mr Johnson narrowly survived a party confidence vote.

However, the British Prime Minister has insisted he secured a “decisive” victory despite 148 of his own MPs voting to oust him.

Speaking this morning, Mr Coveney said in general it is “unwise” for Irish politicians to comment on UK party politics, but there is a real concern that divisions within the Conservative Party could impact on UK-EU negotiations over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

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“If those divisions within the Conservative Party impact on Ireland, because the Prime Minister or the British Government decides in order to maintain support within the party that they have to take a tougher line on Brexit, or on the Northern Ireland Protocol, well then obviously divisions in the Conservative Party and in the British Government impact on Ireland,” he said.

“And of course, that’s where we have a concern.”

Speaking on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland programme, Minister Coveney said Irish and EU negotiators are ready to sit down with members of the UK Government and the DUP to iron the Brexit agreement.

However, Minister Coveney said the British Government has not shown the “seriousness” necessary to reach an agreement on the post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland.

He said the UK Government was instead “threatening to publish legislation this week which would effectively be using British domestic law to breach international law by setting aside elements of their treaty obligations”.

He said that would be a “big mistake” politically, because it will cause an “awful lot more problems than it solves”.

“Whoever is the British prime minister, we will work with them, of course, but what we don’t want to see is Ireland being part of a strategy to maintain support within the Conservative Party in the context of hardening a position on the Northern Ireland Protocol,” he added.

Minister Coveney was speaking from Finland, a country which has recently sought to join Nato, and he said the Russian war on Ukraine has pushed more countries to join the alliance and Ireland will have to be part of a wider discussion about what neutrality means within the European Union.

“There’s a lot of discussion now about how the EU secures its future and protects its people and Ireland needs to be part of that debate and we will be,” he said.

Meanwhile, regarding the ongoing challenges in the Passport Office, Minister Coveney said “we’re working on it absolutely all of the time”.

“Last week and the week before we were issuing about 7,500 passports a day and so far we’re close to 600,000 passports this year, which is close to what we would be delivering in a full year,” he said.

“The passports that take most time are first time applications and at the start of the year that was taking 40 working days, we now have it down – as of this week – to about 25 working days and we’ll continue try to reduce those turnaround times.

“This requires more people, which is what we’re doing, this summer we will have 900 people in the Passport Office. Last year we had 460, so we have effectively doubled the personal.”

Minister Coveney added that work is continuing “around the clock to deliver peoples’ passports on time”.

Additional reporting by PA

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