Arlene Foster criticises Irish government for its stance on Brexit

The North's First Minister claimed "political instability in Dublin, and fears of their own future" are influencing decision making

Arlene Foster criticises Irish government for its stance on Brexit

File photo of First Minister Arlene Foster. | Image: Liam McBurney PA Wire/PA Images

Northern Ireland’s First Minister has criticised the Irish government for its stance on Brexit.

In her first conference speech as leader, Arlene Foster told the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) that the Irish position was being fuelled by political instability.

She said: "Now, I am pleased that relations with the Irish government are probably as good as they have been at any point in our history and I will continue to work with them where it is in the best interests of Northern Ireland to do so.

"However, the reality is that political instability in Dublin, and fears of their own future, are driving their decision-making at present as much as any concern about Northern Ireland.

"And while they seek to take the views of people of Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit at home, their representatives are sent around the world to talk down our economy and to attempt to poach our investors."

Northern Ireland, like Scotland, voted to remain in the EU but the DUP had campaigned to leave.

Arlene Foster said she respected those who had taken a different view but had no time for "those who want to re-fight the referendum".

"That debate is over," she added.

"Rather than talking up the challenges, we should be looking towards the opportunities. Brexit represents the biggest economic opportunity for this country in decades."

Mrs Foster hit the headlines recently by restating her opposition to same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland but made no reference to social issues in the speech.

Instead, she spelled out the five "principles" she will use to guide her through negotiations.

They include "Brexit means Brexit - the whole of the UK leaves the EU"; "economic and social benefits for Northern Ireland", the reality of its "geography and history", working "with whoever to get the best deal" and not being diverted from business at home.

She insisted that negotiations did not justify the re-opening of the political agreements behind peace.
She said she would continue listening to ordinary people, not "the self-appointed elite in society".

The First Minister's opponents have criticised her comments.

Sinn Fein MLA John O'Dowd said: "There is no good Brexit for Ireland, north or south. No amount of posturing at a party conference can change that.

"As tempting as it may be to blame the Irish Government for everything the reality is it is the British government who are dragging the people of the North out of the EU against their democratically expressed will."

Fianna Fáil TD Brendan Smith, Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, said: “While, of course, we need to be aware that the First Minister was speaking to her political base, it is absolutely incorrect for her to suggest that the Irish Government talks down the Northern Irish economy, and that Ireland seeks to poach investors away from Northern Ireland.

“A single all-Ireland industrial promotion agency would have huge benefits for the entire island. We need to build further to realise the full potential of the Good Friday Agreement. The First Minister can show leadership on this matter, and work with the Irish Government to make this a reality. I hope she takes the opportunity,” he added.