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Ireland Looms Large Against Global Backdrop

June 10, 2021

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President Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson meeting in Cornwall. BBC Screengrab photo.

 

By Irish Echo Staff

 

The G7 gathering in Cornwall and the re-conference meeting between President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Joe Biden is concerned with global issues such as the pandemic, overall global security and climate change.

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The ongoing tensions over Brexit and the Irish Sea Protocol provided far more than a backdrop to the Biden-Johnson meeting.

It was very much up front and center.

And in this context Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the intervention Joe Biden on the row over Northern Ireland’s post-Brexit position was “significant.”

Martin was referring to reports, orginating in the London Times, that President Biden had ordered U.S. officials to issue Boris Johnson with an extraordinary diplomatic rebuke for imperiling the Northern Ireland peace process over Brexit.

The Irish Independent was reporting that Yael Lempert, America’s most senior diplomat in Britain, had told Lord Frost, the British government’s Brexit minister, that his government government was “inflaming” tensions in Ireland and Europe with its opposition to checks at ports in Northern Ireland.

“The President is said to have approved a rare diplomatic ‘demarche’ – used more often between rivals than allies – over the trade row that Brexit sparked,” the report stated.

The Taoiseach said it is significant that Mr Biden specifically noted that any agreement between the EU and UK on sanitary standards would not impact on a trade deal between America and Britain.

“I think the intervention from Joe Biden’s administration is significant but also from my perspective represents a lot of common sense,” Mr. Martin said on Newstalk radio.

Said Martin: “From the American perspective, the EU and U.S. relationship is very important for restoring that transatlantic relationship, but equally, the UK needs to be aligned to that restoration.

“So, I think the U.S. is saying ‘sort out this issue, we’re very clear from a United States perspective that the Good Friday Agreement and peace on the island is absolutely imperative and the protocol is a contributor to that and you’ve signed up for it so adhere to it.”

The Irish Times was reporting Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney as saying that President Biden can “see through the spin and fog” from London on the Northern Ireland protocol and will urge the British government to implement the deal it agreed. 

Mr. Coveney was speaking in response to the reports that the U.S. government had privately rebuked the British for endangering the peace process over the protocol.

“I’m not surprised at the strength of feeling that we have got from the U.S. President,” Mr Coveney told reporters in Dublin Thursday morning.

“I think he has a capacity to see through the spin and the fog and the media articles in the British media about the protocol, and (he) simplifies the message: a deal was agreed, for good reason. Now it needs to be implemented.”

Meanwhile, as Biden and Johnson were meeting, the White House was denying the “demarche” reports. 

Reported RTE: “This is wrong. First, this discussion wasn’t directed by the President. It was not heightened. As with any ally, we have diplomatic conversations about areas where we have concern at many levels,” a senior Biden administration official said.

Amid reports and denial, the U.S. State Department was saying that the U.S. will encourage both sides “to prioritize economic and political stability in Northern Ireland and to negotiate within existing mechanisms when those differences arise.”

One way or another, and even as Biden and Johnson were presenting anew to the world the 1941 “Atlantic Charter” agreed by President Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, it was the Irish Sea that, one way or another, was presenting itself as the larger body of water – at least for news purposes.

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