Ireland's deputy PM: Brexiteers are risking peace in Northern Ireland

PUBLISHED: 11:34 20 February 2018 | UPDATED: 11:35 20 February 2018

Ireland's deputy prime minister Simon Coveney Pic: Annika Haas

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Brexiteers are risking fragile peace in Northern Ireland by questioning the future of the Good Friday Agreement, Ireland's deputy prime minister has said.

Simon Coveney, the Republic's foreign affairs minister, said that the 1998 accord was being undermined in some political circles.

Mr Coveney tweeted: "Talking down (the) Good Friday Agreement because it raises serious and genuine questions of those pursuing Brexit is not only irresponsible but reckless and potentially undermines the foundations of a fragile peace process in Northern Ireland that should never be taken for granted."

The British and Irish governments have reiterated they are fully committed to the Good Friday Agreement amid a deep political impasse in Stormont.

Mr Coveney's tweet was directed at Labour MP Kate Hoey and Conservative MPs Daniel Hannan and Owen Paterson after they raised questions over the future of the 20-year-old accord.

Mr Paterson, a former Northern Ireland secretary, recently retweeted a commentator's suggestion that the agreement had outlived its use.

He also tweeted that Northern Ireland deserved good government, and health services were falling behind the rest of the UK without a devolved executive.

Northern Ireland secretary Karen Bradley is due to update Westminster on the Stormont deadlock on Tuesday.

The Easter agreement was signed almost 20 years ago by the British and Irish governments and enjoyed support from most of the major parties in Northern Ireland. Ian Paisley's DUP opposed it at the time.

It enabled the formation of a ministerial executive and assembly at Stormont.

Ms Hoey said her questions over the future of the Good Friday Agreement were nothing to do with Brexit.

"Hiding head in sand over viability of sustainability of mandatory coalition is reckless and wrong," she said.

Mr Hannan said he had been arguing long before Brexit that the agreement needed to be changed.

Prime minister Theresa May and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke by phone on Monday night after the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein clashed over the prospect of direct rule being imposed on Northern Ireland.

Both leaders expressed disappointment over the political impasse at Stormont.

The breakdown in powersharing came to a head despite optimism that a deal had been close on contentious issues such as the Irish language, marriage equality and the legacy of the past.

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