Stormont general election vote count will be ‘very long and tense’ – Simon Coveney


Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney said he thought it would be “difficult” to form a government in Stormont once the results of the election were in.

Elections are currently underway for the Stormont Assembly of Northern Ireland. A total of 239 candidates are applying for 90 seats.

Sinn Féin was ahead in the polls ahead of the election, raising the prospect that the party could win the largest share and take the post of First Minister.

It would be the first time a nationalist has held such a position since the founding of Northern Ireland a little over a century ago.

Mr Coveney said this will be a “very long and tense” count because “things are changing in Northern Ireland”.

“I think it’s going to be difficult because this has been a difficult election and indeed we’ve seen a lot of polarization on certain issues in Northern Ireland politics for a number of years,” he told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland.

“Especially linked to the fallout from Brexit, the implementation of the Protocol in Northern Ireland, the difficulty of agreeing on a way forward on how to deal with the legacy of the past and of course we also have the added complication of at least potential change , in the pecking order, if you will, of the possibility of a nationalist party having the highest share of votes and seats, although that is far from certain.”

The Northern Ireland protocol has long overshadowed the election campaign following the resignation of First Minister Paul Givan in February in an effort to force the UK government to act on post-Brexit trade deals.

Unionists are opposed to the extra controls on goods entering Northern Ireland from Britain as a border in the Irish Sea.

Mr Coveney said his job, and that of the UK Government, was to try and find a way to “fix” the problems surrounding the protocol.

He added that protocol is not the “number one” issue in this election, instead health and cost of living issues are more important to voters.

“So that we can implement the protocol as it was designed, but with maximum flexibility to address the concerns that many people have about the protocol,” he said.

“I’m working hard I’ve already spoken to Liz Truss over the past few days, I spoke to Brandon Lewis yesterday and we expect to speak a lot in the coming weeks.

“It’s not going to be easy, and deals like this don’t come about quickly. As we know in Northern Ireland, when the executive branch last collapsed, it took us three years to put it back together. We have a lot to do this summer but I think the people of Northern Ireland expect politicians to respect democracy and the results of these elections and they want government to work and work and solve problems.”

Minister Coveney said if the UK government were to “unilaterally” repeal elements of the protocol it would cause “significant problems”.

“Let’s not forget that we have an international treaty, which is international law, which has the Northern Ireland Protocol as part of it. Which of course was drafted and ratified and agreed by both the UK Government and the EU to deal with the Brexit disruption on the island of Ireland to protect the peace process,” he said.

The Minister added: “We now need to move away from absolutist positions towards compromises and mid-points where the Irish Government works in partnership with the UK Government and the European Commission, that is the approach we are trying to take and hope so me is also replicated in London.” Stormont general election vote count will be ‘very long and tense’ – Simon Coveney

Fry Electronics Team

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