Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney ‘partly at fault for chill with unionists’

Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney should recognise that he is the one of the reasons why relations between the Republic and unionists are at a low point, a Dublin-born peace campaigner said last night.

By The Newsroom
Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 7:14 am
Updated Wednesday, 15th June 2022, 7:15 am

The Reverend Chris Hudson, who acted as a secret envoy between the Irish government and loyalists in the run up to the 1994 ceasefires, said Mr Coveney’s attitude to unionists, particularly the DUP, is a key factor in the deterioration of relationships between Dublin and the pro-Union community in Northern Ireland.

Dr Hudson also said that the DUP’s presence in the power-sharing institutions at Stormont is for him as necessary today as was the need to bring Sinn Fein in from the political cold during the early 1990s.

The former trade unionist and Unitarian minister said: “There has been a lot of talk following the UK government’s Protocol Bill by Irish ministers like Simon Coveney of Anglo-Irish relations reaching a very low point. But I would contend that relations between all sections of unionism and this Irish government are also at one of the lowest points I have seen in over 30 years working to build relations between unionists and loyalists with successive administrations in Dublin.

Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney

“And it would be important for Simon Coveney to recognise that some of the dismissive things he says about unionist concerns over the protocol are part of the reason for that deterioration in relations.”

The one time go-between, who passed messages from Albert Reynolds’ government to the UVF leadership and vice versa from 1993 onwards, continued: “I remember Irish Labour Party advisor Fergus Finlay stating that all-party talks in Northern Ireland would not be worth a penny candle unless Sinn Fein was involved in them. I recall at the time agreeing with Fergus that was the only realistic approach.

“Now in 2022 I am saying Stormont won’t be worth a penny candle unless the DUP are on board and that can only happen if their fears and the fears of the people they represent about the protocol are properly addressed. Which is why Simon Coveney and other Irish ministers should listen to them rather than lecture at them.”

Meanwhile, loyalist activist Jamie Bryson has said he does not recall a time when there was “so much visceral disdain” from the Irish government towards the unionist community.

Mr Bryson said: “It is almost as if nationalism, and the aggressive Irish government, cannot comprehend that us pesky unionists have awoken from our slumber.”